Famed Japanese Fashion Designer Issey Miyake Dead at Age 84: Inside His Legacy

·3 min read
Japanese designer Issey Miyake participates in a press conference for the Miyake Issey Exhibition at the National Art Center in Tokyo on March 15, 2016. The exhibition will be held from March 16 until June 13.
Japanese designer Issey Miyake participates in a press conference for the Miyake Issey Exhibition at the National Art Center in Tokyo on March 15, 2016. The exhibition will be held from March 16 until June 13.

TORU YAMANAKA/AFP via Getty

Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake died in Tokyo on August 5. He was 84. The designer's death was announced on Tuesday by the Miyake Design Studio, which noted the cause was liver cancer.

Miyake made an impact not only in the fashion industry but in beauty and even tech. He was at the forefront of pleated garments, taking inspiration from silk Delphos gowns designed by Henriette Negrin and her husband Mariano Fortuny in the early 1900s, according to CNN. He started creating these pleated garments in the late 1980s, ushering the cutting-edge design into modern fashion.

In the early 1990s, Miyake moved into the fragrance world, releasing his debut offering called L'Eau d'Issey, a scent that quickly grew a cult following. He was also known for the brand's iconic geometric Bao Bao bag, a best-selling style known for its futuristic shape.

Miyake even made a mark on Apple, supplying the company's co-founder Steve Jobs with his iconic black turtleneck. Jobs, who was rarely seen without a black turtleneck, turned to Miyake's staple design in the 1980s. The late tech giant reportedly wore Miyake's turtlenecks almost exclusively.

Steve Jobs, chief executive officer of Apple Inc., unveils the iPhone 4 during his keynote address at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Monday, June 7, 2010.
Steve Jobs, chief executive officer of Apple Inc., unveils the iPhone 4 during his keynote address at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Monday, June 7, 2010.

David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty

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Miyake was born in Hiroshima, Japan, in 1938, just a few short years before the atomic bomb hit the city. He went on to study graphic design at Tokyo's Tama Art University and later Paris' École de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne. As he moved into the fashion world, he studied with the industry's best, including Guy Laroche and Hubert de Givenchy.

Though he'd traveled the world to study and learn, he ended up back in Tokyo, where he opened his own design studio. This was when he started playing with silhouettes, creating the modern pleat. He wanted to take something that was once viewed as only avant-garde and make it more approachable — and permanent. He combined his early 1900s inspiration with his Japanese background to create the folds that are still a fashion staple today.

Miyake released his Pleats Please collection in 1993, one of his best-known collections of pleats that solidified the technique's place in the sartorial world.

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As Miyake's brand grew, he stepped back from strictly fashion design and moved into designing and creating other things as well, including launching his fragrances and devoting time to sustainable materials.

According to the Associated Press, Miyake also collaborated with furniture and interior designer Shiro Kuramata, photographer Irving Penn, choreographer and director Maurice Bejart, pottery maker Lucie Rie and Ballet Frankfurt. The designer was even tapped to create the Olympic uniforms for Lithuania in 1992.

But as much as Miyake had an impact on the world of fashion, he made it very clear years ago that he didn't want to be called a fashion designer.

"Anything that's 'in fashion' goes out of style too quickly. I don't make fashion. I make clothes," Miyake told the magazine Parisvoice in 1998.

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Issey Miyake
Issey Miyake

ARNAL/GARCIA/Gamma-Rapho via Getty

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And despite his incredible talent for intricate designs, he always believed in approachable fashion, often championing the basic t-shirt and jeans for everyday-wear — hence the black turtleneck that became Jobs' go-to (and later adopted by Elizabeth Holmes, though hers weren't necessarily crafted by Miyake).

The designer leaves a legacy of fashion that juxtaposes art with technology, crisp lines with flowing fabrics, as well as numerous ventures beyond that of clothes.

His office confirmed to the AP that a private funeral has already been held for Miyake and no further ceremonies will take place.