三宅一生的設計哲學可以從1969年五月的巴黎學運開始談起．三宅一生在1965年畢業於日本的Tama藝術大學後便進入巴黎的Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne的高級訂製服裝學校，並且在Guy Laroche跟Givenchy實習．在他1969年前往紐約前，這段在巴黎的日子對他來說相當重要．他在巴黎目睹了叛逆、自由的氣氛，想要挑戰傳統、一成不變．學運期間，來自世界各地的人匯聚在巴黎並且不受拘束的表現自己．時尚，作為法國社會的重要領域，不可避免的受到這種自由的氣息感染．在時尚產業工作的人們也開始重新思考長久以來的時尚體系．三宅一生從這種氣氛中解脫了高級訂製服的傳統、窠臼，了解到他的設計應該屬於每個人，“像牛仔褲或是T恤”一樣被一般大眾穿著．
Issey Miyake’s design philosophy is emerged out from the student riots in Paris of May 1968. After graduating from Tama Art University in 1965, Miyake was admitted to an haute couture school in Paris- Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne and worked as an apprentice at Guy Laroche and Givenchy. The time he stayed in Paris before he left for New York in 1969 was critical to his design philosophy. During his stay in Paris, he thrived on the rebellious, liberal atmosphere that sought to challenge conventionality and conformity. (Issey, 1999) People from all around the world invaded the city and expressed themselves freely. Fashion, as an important field in French society, inevitably perceived the sense of longing for freedom and people working in the fashion industry began to rethink the fashion system which had been built for a long time. He then was set free from the traditional constraints and the conventional rules of etiquette of haute couture, realising that his design should easily be worn by anyone, “like jeans or T-shirts.” (Issey, 1999, p18)
Before an exhibition titled ‘A-ŪN’ in 1988, Issey Miyake was dedicated to responding to fundamental questions about the nature of clothing, such as the relationship between clothes and life, the movement of body and garments. He had done several collaborations with artists from different fields to show his concerns, philosophy and answer the questions. Also, due to his nationality mixed with his western experiences, he sought a balance of definition of fashion between the East and the West. At that time, European’s native costume as well as system of modern society were adopted by the whole world. He understood that if he want to strike a balance between East and West, he could neither use western techniques, such as cutting and sewing which make the form of the garment like a shell similar to the shape of the body, nor adopt eastern methods which set the garment or fabric away from body, like kimono. (Issey, 1978, p55) He knew that he had to start from the core concept of essential space, the inconsistency between the body and the fabric.
Until he exhibited all his work at ‘A-ŪN’ in 1988, he sensed that the exhibition was a summary of his research into design and materials. He felt that he had achieved everything he could, so he started to think about what was ahead. Then he spotted a scarf which was folded and pleated at an angle, believing that it was a new form of garment.(Issey, 2012, p34)
Actually, in fashion history, pleats have been used for thousands of years. From a historical perspective, Egyptian pharaohs’s loincloth and greek’s chiton are well known by the world; in terms of ethnic costume, Scottish kilts are wildly discussed when it comes to the issue of men in skirts. (Edelkoort, 2012, pp. 21) At the beginning of 20th century, Mario Fortuny, worked as a painter, sculptor and inventor, and took a patent of his new pleating technology in his era. Subsequently, Marilyn Monroe’s white sun ray pleat dress standing above the air outlet of New York subway became an iconic image. Pleating is not a new fabric manipulation technique. However, when Issey Miyake encountered this manipulation, he brought the pleating to another level, or to be specific, brought it down to everyone’s daily life. He views ‘Pleats Please’ as a chance to practice his design philosophy rather than merely produce a commercial product.
“Pleated dresses invoke Fortuny’s glorious designs from the early 20th century, but I was not interested in the style of haute couture that required maintenance and careful handling that he had created. I wasn’t interested in mastering craftsmanship, but in creating clothes based upon theories of modern technology and engineering. I want to delve into the potential, not of fashion, but of clothing as a product.” said Issey Miyake. (Issey, 2012, pp. 34)
In contrast to Fortuny, Issey collaborated with dancers, and what he really wants to achieve is “ to create clothes that anyone could wear.”(Issey, 1999, pp.18) Fortuny’s dress was designed for wearing around the house without corset and avant-garde ladies, such as Isadora Duncan, began to wear the garment outside the house. Although those pioneers’ behaviour freed the self-awareness of women’s body, the garments still belonged to high-end fashion and were exclusive to the fashion outsider. Issey Miyake’s collaboration with William Forsythe’s Frankfurt Ballet Company built up a new attitude toward fashion. When the ballerinas tried on ‘Pleats Please’, their actions astonished Issey Miyake. For the first time they slipped into the costumes, they began to move and even tried on the opposite gender’s dress, neglecting Issey’s instructions. (Issey, 2012, pp.38) Issey Miyake then started to understand his design is not for noble or fashion people only, he succeeded in trickling fashion down to everyone.
PLEATS PLEASE first release in 1993 at Paris Fashion Week
“I spent many years working on collections in Paris, and my feeling was that, in addition to the clothes reserved for an elite, there should be another clothing style aimed at a wider female audience, a style that would not be restricted to a particular age or profession, and which would be inspired by current aesthetics. At the same time it would be functional and go beyond the fads and trends of the moment.” (Issey, 1999, pp. 20) During his design career, we can trace back that he has had the notion of creating garments for everyone since 1968, but not until he collaborated with ballerinas before he launch of ‘Pleats Please’ in 1993, was his dream fulfilled.
‘Pleats Please’ is a research journey for Issey Miyake, taking him years to mature the products. Unlike Fortuny, Issey discovered the polyester scarf which made him begin with synthetic fibre. He can see the brand new possibilities through the new material. However, the Issey Miyake Deisgn Team was not familiar with the synthetics material. Makiko Minagawa, the leading textile designer of Issey Miyake Design Team, found it a huge challenge to step into a whole new world. The existent synthetic fibre was suitable for making small scarves, and polyester fibre can be pleated permanently and easy to maintain the shape after washing. However when it came to a whole garment, the volume of the fabric increased three times or even more, and the piece became very heavy and thick which was not suitable for wear. Although, polyester is far cheaper than cotton or other natural fibres, the cost of a scarf, which needs fabric three times more than normal, may stay reasonable. However, when this applies to a whole garment it is extremely expensive. (Issey, 2012, pp. 61) Also, following Issey’s concept, the new garments must be lightweight, easy to wear, portable, functional and sturdy.
Minagawa started to reach out to ‘apparel materials’. At that time, there was a clear distinction between materials for lining and for garments. She secretively did her research and experimented the possibilities to apply apparel materials to outerwear. She eventually came up with a type of knit fabric called tricot with an atlas structure made by Toray. The fabric used for lining is extremely light, durable and reasonably priced. The threads in this atlas structure are threaded diagonally, and they can take the heat of the pleating process and this makes the pleats long-lasting. (Issey, 2012, pp.68)
Another heretical experiment is the inversion process which is a major innovative treatment of Pleats Please. Instead of standard pleating process, in which fabric is first pleated then cut and sewn, the design team created the garment first and then folded and pleated it. This inverse process completely changed the production process which needed different machines to work together. At the primary stage, they sought hand pleating studio to help them experiment. An engineer, Kiyoshi Takahashi, from Ploytex Industry Co., Ltd., recollected that Miyake’s method totally defied the common sense and he could not remember how many machines they broke before the first revolutionised ‘Pleats Please’ product. (Issey, 2012, pp.82-83)
From 16th March until 13th June 2016 you can visit ‘MIYAKE ISSEY EXHIBITION: The Work of Mikyake Issey’ at The National Art Centre, Tokyo. The exhibition will showcase works from the 1970s to the present, and is the largest Miyake retrospective to date. Alongside the exhibition is a programme of talks and workshops. Visit the official website for more information.