Designer Issey Miyake to be awarded Order of Culture

by Masakazu Domen, Staff Writer

On October 26, the Japanese government announced its decision to award the Order of Culture for fiscal year 2010 to seven people, including Issey Miyake, 72, a fashion designer and an A-bomb survivor of Hiroshima.

"I would like to regard the Order of Culture not as a reward for achieving success and fame, but as encouragement for my work in the future. The honor is very encouraging," said Mr. Miyake, expressing his delight at the news from his studio in Tokyo.

With the concept of "a single piece of cloth" as the starting point for his ideas, Mr. Miyake has pursued designs from the very essence of clothing that call to mind neither Western nor Eastern fashions. One of his best-known designs incorporates pleats into sewed garments that fit elegantly on anyone, regardless of body shape. This design has become well-loved around the world.

As Japanese textile makers and sewing factories continue to be relocated overseas, Mr. Miyake feels a growing concern that "Japan's power to produce things is waning." Revealing his determination to respond to this state of affairs, he said, "I would like to create new designs based on new materials and techniques, joining hands with technicians and business."

A life of stretching boundaries 

by Masakazu Domen, Staff Writer

"Receiving the Order of Culture is encouraging for my new project, which involves the support of many people." Issey Miyake, originally from Hiroshima, commented on the honor, which was announced on October 26. His aspirations, which involve broadening the boundaries of the world of design, will continue.

At the Miyake Design Studio in Tokyo, Mr. Miyake gives instruction to the members of his staff in quick succession. Collaborating with technicians and a textile company, he is now developing designs which use recycled fabric, an environmentally-friendly approach. "I would like to support and expand Japan's potential to produce manufactured goods," he said about his new project.

His attitude toward stretching boundaries has been in evidence since his days as an art student in university. In 1960, he felt upset over the fact that the World Design Conference held in Tokyo did not include the field of fashion design. Afterwards, he sent a letter in this regard, which prompted the organizer of the conference to open the door to fashion design.

In Paris, where he gained on-the-job training at high-end boutiques, he was shocked at the May Revolution, a student-led revolt that occurred in 1968. He realized that the age of haute couture for the rich and patrician was over.

He then went to New York, a city of ready-made wear. After returning to Japan, Mr. Miyake established his own design studio in 1970 and began redefining fashion for the new era. Pleats Please, a design by Mr. Miyake in which the garment is cut and sewn and rolled between two sheets of paper to fit loosely on the body, has been a success beyond borders and classes and the number of users continues to increase.

In the summer of 2009, Mr. Miyake wrote about his experience of the atomic bombing for The New York Times and urged U.S. President Barack Obama to visit Hiroshima. He mentioned that stark prejudice prevailed against people of color in the United States during his time there in the 1960s and 1970s, and he hopes that Barack Obama, who helped break the barriers of this prejudice, can make efforts to break the barriers standing in the way of nuclear abolition.

Issey Miyake does not enjoy speaking about the past. But he overcame his hesitation and wrote about his A-bomb experience because he felt that Mr. Obama's vision was in line with his own convictions.

(Originally published on October 27, 2010)

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Honorary citizens of Hiroshima are announced (Sept. 3, 2010)
Designer Issey Miyake asks Obama to visit Hiroshima on Aug. 6 (July 16, 2009)