Issey Miyake has been at the cutting edge of clothing design – or, making things, as he prefers to call it – for over 50 years. Miyake’s innovative designs are always future-looking, but beneath lies a foundation of traditional techniques (both Eastern and Western), along with a deep respect for the materials at use.
Having studied haute couture in Paris in the 1960s, under the likes of Guy Laroche and Givenchy, Miyake returned to Japan in 1970 and founded Miyake Design Studio Inc. He presented his first collection in New York 1971, going on to debut his women’s main line (ISSEY MIYAKE) in Paris in 1973. He proceeded to launch his first menswear line in 1976, primarily as a counterpart to his women’s line, but then later as its own independent line, ISSEY MIYAKE MEN in 1978.
The main two menswear lines you should be looking out for are ISSEY MIYAKE men’s line and ISSEY MIYAKE MEN. For all intents and purposes they are very nearly the same line; indeed, between 1976-1985 I believe they used the same brand label. Early ISSEY MIYAKE MEN pieces can be identified, as they used a distinctive garment label.
ISSEY MIYAKE menswear had its first independent show in 1978. When comparing ISSEY MIYAKE MEN and ISSEY MIYAKE men’s line, the latter is perhaps the slightly more luxurious, due to its close links to the women’s main line. You can spot the ISSEY MIYAKE men’s line pieces as they usually used a black-backed label, with white typeface, whilst the women’s line usually (but not always) used the reverse (ISSEY MIYAKE MEN uses both white and black labels).
ISSEY MIYAKE MEN shouldn’t be seen as inferior to the main line men’s clothing, but whilst the former served as the partner to the women’s collection, ISSEY MIYAKE MEN is very much a brand in its own right. Fortunately ISSEY MIYAKE MEN clothes are very easily identified.
There’s one more strand of the main lines we need to talk about: ISSEY MIYAKE WHITE LABEL, which makes both women’s and men’s clothes. Don’t be fooled by the name, ISSEY MIYAKE WHITE LABEL menswear items have black labels (confusing right!) and only the women’s have white labels – just the same as with the main line labels.
In 2012, presumably in an effort to make things a bit more clear, both the menswear lines were amalgamated under the ISSEY MIYAKE MEN brand. Phew!
In order to check whether a vintage ISSEY MIYAKE or ISSEY MIYAKE WHITE LABEL garment is a men’s or women’s piece, you need to inspect the product code on the care label. Men’s garments always start with ME.
A.POC (A Piece of Cloth) was a line closely linked to Issey Miyake’s vision of creating clothing from a single thread. Developed in conjunction with engineering designer Dai Fujiwara, the concept was brought to life via the extensive use of computer technology. This label has now evolved into the ready to wear line A.POC Inside. Usually you’ll find both the ISSEY MIYAKE label, as well as an A.POC label on these garments.
Alongside the main lines we’ve looked at, there is also IM MIYAKE DESIGN STUDIO, which is linked to the parent company Miyake Design Studio Inc. These items are produced for a wider market, nonetheless, there are still some great bits out there to be found.
FINAL HOME, whilst not strictly a Miyake Design Inc. line, was created by one of their designers, Kosuke Tsumara, and distributed by Issey Miyake from 1994 onwards. The line’s core product was a nylon jacket that was able to transform, thanks to a series of zipped compartments and padded cushions.
In 2010 Issey Miyake launched the new, innovative brand 132 5. ISSEY MIYAKE, making clothing for both men and women. The production method employed utilizes old plastic bottles, along with other recycled fibers. The clothes are designed using computer algorithms, incorporating helix shapes which were originally developed by scientists for solar panels.
In response to the fact that 10% of Pleats Please sales were being made to men, Miyake Design Inc. launched HOMME PLISSÉ ISSEY MIYAKE in 2013. This line offers many wonderful pieces, showcasing Miyake’s trademarked pleating techniques.
ISSEY MIYAKE WATCH produce some truly unique timepieces. Having started in 2001 as a collaboration with Shunji Yamanaka, it has grown to form a permanent collection of 13 different styles, by a host of designers, all of whom share Miyake’s futuristic perspective on design.
ISSEY MIYAKE PARFUMS is such a success that this is possibly the sector where Issey Miyake is now most widely known. L’EAU D’ISSEY POUR HOMME is one of my all-time favourites colognes – citrus notes, with a little spice for good measure.
IN-EI ISSEY MIYAKE is a lighting product brand which grew out of the technology developed for the 132 5. ISSEY MIYAKE clothing line. Through his now familiar exploration of geometry, Miyake combines futuristic production methods with the traditional Japanese concept of light and shadow.
Issey Miyake stepped back from Miyake Inc. in 1997, but has maintained an influential position within the company, and it’s said that nothing gets through to market without his approval. At the present time, most of Miyake’s creative work is based around his role as one of the co-directors of Japan’s first design museum, 21_21 Design Sight.