Issey Miyake died of liver cancer on August 5th, 2022. His passing led me to reflect on the impact his work has had on my life.
I was first introduced to Issey Miyake’s designs courtesy of my media lecturer father’s well-appointed wardrobe. He’d embraced Japanese avant-garde fashion in the late-1980s/1990s, and so as a teenager I had a fabulous collection of Comme des Garçons, Yohji Yamamoto, Kenzo and Issey Miyake to nose around, try on, and occasionally pilfer.
There was one Issey Miyake Men piece he owned that I’d always coveted. It was a lightweight, long-sleeved top in a graphite colour, made from a sheer futuristic fabric blend, cut just a little loose, and virtually uncreasable. Aged around 20, youthful entitlement informed me I had every right to pack this glorious garment for a trip to the south of France. It was my go-to piece that summer. So versatile, strong, yet lightweight, classy, but not too showy.
It wasn’t until that winter when I’d brazenly worn it back home for a visit that my crime was exposed. “You thieving bastard!” my father exclaimed, as he repossessed the piece from my underserving clutches. Quite right, too.
Cut forward to my late twenties and following some gentle nudges from the old man I followed in his footsteps and trained as a creative media teacher. Around that time, he asked me to sell a few of his older Japanese fashion items online – a lot of Comme des Garçons Homme, as well as some Issey and Yohji pieces. Thus, Nippon Couture was born.
My interest in Japanese clothing rekindled, I began buying as much Japanese high-end men’s attire as I could afford; selling most but keeping the pieces I liked best for myself. With the start of a new job lecturing film and journalism, I abandoned my trainee teacher Moss Bros. suit. Instead, I wore black, charcoal, and dark navy Yohji Yamamoto and Issey Miyake suits, often paired with oversized blue CDGH tees, or Issey Miyake cotton shirts. The loose, draping cuts and fine fabrics were great fun to wear, and I like to think they lent me a soupçon of my father’s sartorial style.
When I moved to Japan 9 years ago my personal collection of Japanese garments came with me. It felt good to bring them back home. Despite it being hot and humid August in southern Japan, I remember wearing a lightweight fine-pleated midnight blue Issey Miyake suit to my initial training. The other new hire English teachers didn’t know quite what to make of the styling, but my supervisor Ben (now a close friend) defended the look, saying “summer suits are big here.”
What Issey Miyake items remain in rotation? Well, I’ve of course kept a few of my favourite suits, but these days I tend to favour more tailored pieces for formal occasions. I’ve always loved Issey Miyake wool dress pants – such great fabric weaves and cuts. I have a thing for Issey Miyake Men loose cut shirts, whether pleated, intentionally creased, or sheer.
Issey Miyake’s sweaters are always high quality, be they bulky knit, spliced, or fine woven, and the cut of a size 4 fits me just right. I own a couple of multi-zippered rain jackets that perfectly balance style and functionality. I can’t bring myself to give up my long, angora-blend IM Miyake Design Studio overcoat, despite it only being cold enough to wear it one month a year here in Japan. Sports coats, jackets and overcoats from Issey Miyake are just the best.
I have quite a few fine-embroidered neckties that I’ll never part with. Also, some space-age gym wear that refuses to age. And of course, L’eau d’Issey Pour Homme, and the lighter summer variant are perennial favourites, with their subtle yuzu top notes.
The Issey Miyake pieces that I keep coming back to span a wide range of styles and uses. What connects them is an underlying focus on wearability, technological innovation, and fun.
I’ll keep hunting out pieces to add to my collection. I love the vintage lines: Issey Miyake Men, Issey Miyake Men White Label, and the original Issey Miyake mainline. Homme Plisse and the new IM Men are perhaps a bit youthful for this 40-something, but I keep an eye on new drops, just in case. And of course, I’m still looking out for a lightweight long-sleeve graphite Issey Miyake Men top to replace the one my father reclaimed. I wonder if he’s still got it…
All pieces displayed are currently for sale in our eBay store Nippon Couture