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Exclusive: In conversation with Issey Miyake's Yoshiyuki Miyamae

Exclusive: In conversation with Issey Miyake's Yoshiyuki Miyamae

The designer speaks with Buro 24/7 Middle East

Interview: Farouk Chekoufi


Image: Courtesy

Issey Miyake designer Yoshiyuki Miyamae is notoriously private however the acclaimed creative speaks exclusively with Buro 24/7 Middle East in this rare interview...

Sitting at the helm of one of Japan's coolest fashion brands since 2011, Yoshiyuki Miyamae is an undeniable talent. Preferring to let his craft do most of the talking, the Issey Miyake designer rarely gives press interviews. However, this month, he spoke with Buro 24/7 Middle East contributor Farouk Chekoufi about his techniques, inspirations and why the brand is bound by no borders...

issey miyake

How did you introduce cutting-edge technologies such as the 3D-like fabric technique? What aspects are woven into your original approach? 

From the start of my career as a designer, I wanted to create new materials for Issey Miyake using the "Pleats" and "A-POC" techniques as a springboard for my designs. These techniques, which have been developed over many years are part of the individuality and foundation of Issey Miyake.

After carefully studying both original techniques, I created new pleats called 'Steam Stretch', which use a technique by which creases are woven into A Piece Of Cloth using heat reactive thread which shrinks when steam is applied to the garment. High-level computer programming and original innovated thread are also used for 'Steam Stretch'. Polyester is the main material used for 'pleat', but with this 'Steam Stretch' technique, any material can be used, such as cotton and silk. Not only straight lines, but also three-dimensional multifaceted and new kind of pleats have been successfully released every season (from S/S '14 to A/W '18). This has been an eve- evolving development to continue the Issey Miyake history.

You are often haild a visionary Japanese designer — how do you feel about this? Your approach seems avant-garde through your subtly sculptural silhouettes...

In our company and team, Mr. Miyake's philosophy always exists within our creative freedom. I have great respect for brands with a strong philosophy and point of view. 

How did you start your career? And where? How did you discover your vocation for fashion?

In 2001, I started working at Miyake Design Studio. At the beginning of my time there, I heard the news about A-POC, a project creating garments using a single-form creation process.  This new concept of design made an impact on me. I was lucky enough to be able to participate in the A-POC project and experience the whole process of making clothes from the initial concept to the final development. Having always had a wide curiosity towards a variety of interests has always helped me with my natural instincts and intuition towards design.

I never consider design as a job, as I enjoy it so much. I believe vocation is how much you can continue the things you enjoy. My mission is to continue designing and exploring new ways of creating.  

I never consider design as a job, as I enjoy it so much. I believe vocation is how much you can continue the things you enjoy. My mission is to continue designing and exploring new ways of creating.  

Why are all of the collections produced in Japan? 

Everything is produced in Japan. Trust is an important part of the design process. Issey Miyake creations include the support of many people, who have been working with the company for several decades. We maintain strong relationships with our factories and craftsmen throughout Japan. 

What are your current projects?

We have many projects going on at the same time, but our focus remains on finding new ways of innovating designs.

How are your designs connected to your Japanese influence?

Japanese culture is rich in history and tradition; its aesthetics and values of integrity greatly influence everything subliminally.

Can you describe your creative process and studio? 

Team work is the priority. We are a close-knit team that meets often throughout the day. I am always trying to create an environment which is vibrant and positive for everyone so that they can concentrate on creation. 

Where did you find the inspiration for A/W '18 collection?

If I name the universal inspiration for me, it is nature. Nature has a beauty which human beings cannot create. If you dig deeper into it, it may be connected to the Japanese culture and perspective on nature. It is also related to our diet and the way we live in our culture. 

Every season, I am inspired by various natural phenomenon and forms. The A/W '18 season was inspired by the enduring plants and animals living and waiting for spring to blossom during the cold harsh winter months.

However, I find inspirations everywhere, whether it is from new materials encountered through research, casual conversations with friends, cultural movements from newspapers and TV, plays I often go to see, or fragments of various ideas existing in my mind. My inspirations are always connected to each other to create an image or motif. 

As a designer, I have an eye to understand the society through textiles.  The importance of this is one of the things I learned from Mr. Miyake. 

How do you start the process of creating a new collection?

Research is always the start. As a team, we make prototypes and innovate together. Some new materials can be accomplished in about three months, but others take a few years. Similar to making a movie, everything is developing at the same time.

What makes Issey Miyake so unique today?

We create designs following our own philosophy, not by following trends and style in fashion.

How has technology shaped your design over the years at Issey Miyake? 

Because today's computer has evolved so quickly, we could not have created the clothes, such as Steam Stretch, without the tremendous information available to us. Technology always inspires our creative energy and curiosity, and gives us clues about new innovations. The balance of technology and craftsmanship will always be important.

What make you most happy at Issey Miyake?

The happiness of making things is very simple. When our customers feel joyful wearing our clothes, I feel happy. 

 Technology always inspires our creative energy and curiosity, and gives us clues about new innovations. The balance of technology and craftsmanship will always be important.

Do the archives play a big role in your collections? How do you inject your own DNA into the collections?

In order to understand Issey Miyake, you don't have to learn about superficial style but you need to have a much deeper understanding of the philosophy and spirit of Mr Miyake lying beneath the style. The name "A Piece of Cloth" is simple, yet the thoughts and philosophies behind it are much deeper. Until now I have been thinking about two ideas; one is to change, and another to inherit and continue as a brand. The expressing methods and styles have to be changed in line with the times. On the contrary, it is also very important to pass on Miyake's spirit of making things as the baton to the next generation of the team. However, I am often influenced and learn from the vast archives. What influenced me most was the experience to work with Mr Miyake on the A-POC team right after I started to work at this company. At the beginning, I didn't have knowledge of the materials at all. Through the work with A-POC, I learned it. This is the reason why I can now develop and research new materials. Every week, I would visit the areas of production and learn from the countless people working on producing one piece of clothing, from a single yarn to a piece of cloth. I have a duty to take what I have experienced and learned from Mr Miyake and pass it along to the newer generation of the design team whom I am working with, allowing them to have an open space for creation and development. It might be different from the latest ever-changing fashion system, but I feel that it is important to have faith and take enough time to create high quality designs.  

What is the style of the brand?

It is important for Issey Miyake clothes to let the people wear freedom. Roomy shape, colours to make the wearers energetic but there's no determined style. 

I have a duty to take what I have experienced and learned from Mr Miyake and pass it along to the newer generation of the design team whom I am working with, allowing them to have an open space for creation and development.

Do you think stores are still essential to the luxury experience?

I believe stores will be more and more essential as an environment to experience the value of the brand in the age to come.

What's your favourite market?

I don't design for one country, so my designs know no borders. I believe Issey Miyake designs are universal.

Now, read Farouk's earlier interview with Ulric Jerome, the CEO of Matchesfashion.com.

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