Issey Miyake’s counter to the atom bomb - GulfToday

Issey Miyake’s counter to the atom bomb

Issey Miyake


The death of Japanese fashion designer, Issey Miyake, at the age of 84 of pancreatic cancer is more than the passing of an iconic figure of the world of haute couture. He was born in Hiroshima, and he was seven when the deadly atom bomb was dropped on the city for the first time in human history. Mikaye did not become a peace activist pleading for ban on nuclear bombs, which was an important thing to do. But he set himself to counter the destruction unleashed by the atom bomb with creativity. It was both an idealistic response as well as an affirmative one to a weapon that only destroyed.

Miyake explained in his own words his answer to the atom bomb: “When I close my eyes, I still see things none should ever experience. I have tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to put them behind me, preferring to think of things that can be created, not destroyed, and that bring beauty and joy. I gravitated to the field of cloth design partly because it was a creative format that is modern and optimistic.” The atom bomb was modern too, but it certainly was not optimistic.

He apprenticed himself under Paris’ fashion gurus Guy Laroche and Hubert de Givenchy, before moving to New York, and made his international mark, the first from Asia to make everyone sit up. He returned to Tokyo to set up the Miyake Design Studio in 1970. His signature in fashion was the pleats he created by placing fabric between layers of paper and making the fabric go through a heat process where the form of the pleat holds. The cloth did not confine the body and it left the body enough freedom of movement, something made for dancers. It is said that before choosing fashion design as his career while going through the fashion magazines owned by his sister, Miyake wanted to be either an athlete or a dancer.

And it seemed that his designer fabric was made with the movement of the dancer and athlete in mind, where the fabric left enough space around for body movement. After a successful career as a couturier, where he marketed his brand, Miyake retired in 1997, not to live a leisurely life but to devote himself to research.

Asked about the future of fabric design in 2016 by British newspaper The Guardian, Miyake observed with sage-like prescience, “We may have to go through a thinning process. It is important.

In Paris, we call people who make clothing couturiers – they develop new clothing items – but actually the work of designing is to make something that works in real life.” It seems that his long journey through the centres of world fashion like Paris, New York, Tokyo brought him towards the close of his journey to the realization that fashion is not glamour and glitz, not something that dazzles and provokes, but it is something that can be used in daily life.

Clothing is the primary necessity of life with food and shelter. So, clothing, including fashionable clothing, must serve the basic purpose. It does not however mean that it must be merely utilitarian. It can be beautiful and meaningful. And Miyake used clothing to make the statement against the atomic bomb, a creative statement and an unexpected one. Miyake once said that he did not want to be known as a designer who survived the nuclear holocaust. He wanted to make a statement, a creative and positive one. And he did. His mother was a victim of the bomb. She died of the effects of radiation caused by the bomb.

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