Issey Miyake

*Written on August 10, 2022.

Mourning for a person you have never met for a moment is helpless and hopeless in its own right. There is no personal relationship between him and me, and even his practice is visible to everyone, not just me, so I wonder how I can even pay my respects to someone everyone respects.

On the one hand, even if we can’t meet in person, I can grieve over someone’s death and be able to honour him, so it’s good to say that it’s hopeful at the same time. Furthermore, it is only a one-way transmission that is not reachable, the current environment in which you can try it makes you feel grateful simultaneously. However, I do not know how to commemorate someone who can step down proudly after fulfilling their duty. I also don’t know how to accept the death who has dedicated his life to seeing hope through clothes and how to grieve, feel sorry, and be frustrated. We can’t expect anything other than just inheriting what he’s been doing, so it’s a day that everyone needs comfort in many ways.

Why is he the fashion designer of all fashion designers? Before answering, looking back over time, clothes have been a shred of crucial evidence. Because through clothes, humans can illustrate the past, and based on this, we can read the society and culture of the time. Therefore, clothes contain the time and correspond to instantaneous movements, and existence itself is a phenomenon.

And through his work, people in the present can perceive a new phenomenon distinct from the past. Undoubtedly, each generation desires to renew its world, but if you look back on history, the reforms that the era will remember are limited. This reform has become a starting point that clearly distinguishes the period. His life is a fleeting moment in human history, perhaps even in clothing, but the works he devotedly accumulated during that brief moment became the new starting point.

So he’s a designer for designers and a pioneer of fashion beyond fashion. Indeed, he is a person who opens up new horizons in fashion design and expands and possibly changes the landscape of fashion itself. In my opinion, I would like to say that he constantly challenged to bring the past and the future into the contemporary time and was the person who finally established authentic fashion design. He has been called a prophet, but I believe he is the only one practising current fashion.

“I want to represent the action of thinking. We are working towards the concept of […] no fashion.” — Issey Miyake

What exactly is authentic fashion design? No one can give you a definitive answer, but Issey Miyake explored and suggested a fashion detached from fashion(=trend). Away from fashion for fashion’s sake and clothes for style, he has always pursued clothes for people. In other words, he is the one who answered the needs of society with clothes.

Issey Miyake did not follow the aesthetics of traditional fashion design or the conventional fashion grammar systems to put his ideas into practice. The moment it moved away from fashion for fashion, fashion design could not stay confined to the old-fashioned laws of function, decoration, balance, and distortion. The moment the purpose of clothes shifted from following a trend to people, brands and clothes were able to fulfil their lifespan and role, freeing from blind presentation and production according to a set cycle.

When I think of Issey Miyake, who refused to follow in conventional footsteps and went through his method, I imagine an artist, researcher, and philosopher who has practised “something beyond fashion”. Furthermore, a pre-located fashion designer proposed an alternative to the madness of this industry — blind following, lust for the void, stuffed moments, and kneaded images.

All of the above is just my opinion, and I don’t know if it’s appropriate to describe him and his work. He may have just been folding, bending and unfolding clothes and fabrics, perhaps playing with them to see what they have done on the body and what is possible. I will also realise the helplessness of remembering someone you have never met. As I write it down, it is even more so because I consider this beyond my abilities.

Nevertheless, I write it out resolutely, perhaps with shame, because these personal thoughts, mere illusions, are gradually becoming more apparent. My opinions, questions, missions, and vocations about fashion and clothes merely become chasing his footsteps. At the same time, the question was whether even that was possible, so even if it is presumptuous, I decided that I should do something to express my thoughts about it.

The death of this great designer certainly can’t bring me pain in my daily life or dampen the mood of the private realm. Even so, it is hard to compare professional sorrow to the feeling of loss in everyday life. You can’t compare work and life. I think it will apply to many designers and prospective designers who have publicly received his influence and mourned him. But that’s why even a human like me can honour him in my way. He was already an inseparable being from society. You’ll want to see and understand him from your point of view, but in any case, it’s clear that he has a place among the people who have made history.

An individual like me is not good enough to be an extension of him. However, at the same time, this community can devote itself to becoming an extension that faces the challenges he struggles with every moment, the frustrations I am experiencing, and the limits of the community of fashion itself. He was a possibility until the very end. That is why, through him, I face limitations and realise the tacit promise I share with this community. Therefore, the loss of Issey Miyake is truly a tragic day in need of comfort for all, but I would like to end this writing with a personal thanks.

Photo by Brigitte Lacombe

When I make something, it’s only half finished. When people use it — for years and years — then it is finished.

— Issey Miyake



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