this issue contains
>> Crossing borders with artcouture
>> Comics at Louis Vuitton
>> Art of the runway at Issey Miyake' s
>> Fashion's muse: Claudia Skoda
>> Bootlegging brands with Olaf Nicolai

>> archive

Border Control

For more than 30 years Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake has brought together art and haute couture. He collaborated with contemporary artists, exhibited at museums or created costumes for Frankfurt Ballet. In his New York Headquarter, which was designed by famous architect Frank Gehry, Miyake still proves to be an innovator for art and fashion, using the talents of Naoki Takizawa as his successor in designing and directing the company's fashion shows. Takizawa caused sensation by his collaboration with Japanese artist Takashi Murakami. Cheryl Kaplan looks at the happy marriage between art and fashion at "TriBeCa Issey Miyake".

Inside the Issey Miyake Store
with display by Chiho Aoshima,
New York, 2004, Photo: Chiho Aoshima

While the culture of cute has nearly turned Tokyo into an "adult kiddy land," finding girls and young women way past their infancy wearing clothing suited to five year-olds, Japan's history of super-chic fashion thrives with designers such as Issey Miyake and Naoki Takizawa, the design prodigy of Miyake International's men's and women's collections. Mixing in the company of artists has always been a specialty of Issey Miyake's, who started his company, Miyake Design Studio, in 1970, creating the tattoo dress inspired by Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, who had both died that year. He looked at the tattoo as an homage, but it was also an homage that linked pop culture and art with fashion. Only a few years earlier, Miyake had trained at Givenchy in Paris, where he did sketches that were often sent to Audrey Hepburn and the Duchess of Windsor for their consent. Early on, Miyake's collaborations with the art world landed him on the cover of artforum, attracting special super-star attention by art world fans at a time when SoHo still meant art. Miyake's cutting-edge technology was speeding ahead, changing the very nature of how couture was manufactured, designed, and bought.

Issey Miyake

Miyake has worked with photographers, artists, and dancers (including William Forsythe of the Frankfurt Ballet) as well as filmmakers and architects. These collaborations have always "felt natural" to the designer. Former Frankfurt Ballet dancer Helen Pickett recalls "lots and lots of boxes arriving before the performance of Forsythe's 1991 ballet Loss of small detail." The costumes, numbering close to 300, also marked the debut of the Pleats Please collection. Miyake and Naoki watched the Frankfurt Ballet rehearsals in the wings, never interfering, but constantly observing. Pickett notes: "Miyake also invited several of the dancers to appear in fashion runway shows in Japan and Paris. And we did special performances." All this may have also been due to the fact that as a boy growing up in Hiroshima, Miyake wanted to be a dancer. Miyake, after all, is a designer who has gone out of his way not to design according to the strictures of his Guy LaRoche and Geoffrey Beene past, though he's still indebted to the fashion designer Vionnet. Miyake has said: "I never wanted to be a designer's designer. I just wanted to feel on a par with other creative people like Christo or John Cage, to not be too much in fashion." His collections are deeply dramatic and probably much closer to performance art and happenings than to the convention of the runway. The start probably happened during university. Miyake notes: "I used to get magazines from America with photographs by people like Avedon and Hiro, and saw art by people like Andy Warhol." Rauschenberg was also a big influence and changed the way Miyake perceived art and fashion.

Irving Penn's photographies of Issey Miyake's women's-collection.
Photo: Irving Penn (c) Issey Miyake in collaboration with Irving Penn

Miyake's mostly intuitive collaborations have literally been unspoken, as in his now-famous collaboration with Irving Penn that began in 1986 with a "voiceless message" sent back and forth, known in Japanese as A-un. When Miyake approached Penn, the only thing he wanted was for Penn to help him find what he should do next as a designer. Miyake never went to Penn's studio, nor Penn to Miyake's runway or showroom, although he did send the photographer clothing and a stylist. One imagines the silence of a note being passed without reference to its author and then returned until the project is completed. The result was a series of six books and an exhibition at the Musée des Arts Decoratifs in Paris. Miyake, in fact, has exhibited in the world's major museums, including SFMoCA and Fondation Cartier . His only outwardly directed collaborative invitation to artists was in association with the Cartier exhibition, for which he asked artists Yasumasa Morimura, Nobuyoshi Araki , Tim Hawkinson, and Cai Guo-Qiang to participate in his Guest Artist Series in 1996. A spokesperson for Issey Miyake explained: "What each artist did for Pleats Please was not collaborative in the sense that they didn't sit down and work with Issey, but they were given pleats to work with as a kind of canvas for their own work. The artist designed it, and Miyake implemented the concept. Issey didn't view the collaborations as a commercial endeavor, but rather as an experiment and a way to expand what he was doing conceptually as a designer."

Dress from the Guest Artist Series, 1996
(c) 1997 Issey Miyake and Yasumasa Morimura

The expansion began with Morimura's restaging of Ingres, in which he combined the famous Ingres image of a concubine with an inverted color photo of himself, where his head and body were draped in a red veil and his hands clasped. An eerie image that found the guest embedded into the form. The Chinese-born artist Cai Guo-Qiang began his project with a trail of white Miyake pleated garments set on the gallery floor in the shape of a dragon. He then doused gunpowder across the dragon and ignited it. The remaining image was left as sculpture, but also echoed an exploded pattern used later as the basis for a pleated dress.

A Piece of Cloth, Installation, 1999 Foto: (c) Issey Miyake

Miyake has recently centralized his operations. TriBeCa Issey Miyake in New York is the worldwide flagship store and site for Miyake's U.S. headquarters, housing a store, showroom, and offices. Frank Gehry's sculptural intervention and store design for TriBeCa encompasses the complete Miyake collections for the first time. This includes Issey Miyake by Naoki Takizawa, the A-POC line, Pleats Please, and MeIssey Miyake. The space has already debuted art exhibitions by painter Sebastian Blanck, photographer Cary Wollensky, and artist Ian Wright, as well as the spring/summer 2004 premiere of a limited-edition pleated silk T-shirt series by artist Tsuyoshi Hirano and his wall mural. The Hirano series has been created under Naoki Takizawa's guidance.

While the Hirano T-shirts still bear the convention of applied design, a twist that's closer to home on the art front can be found between Naoki Takizawa at Issey Miyake International and Takashi Murakami. This intersection of contemporary Japanese art and contemporary Japanese design has been a much-anticipated linchpin. No one has used this leverage point better than Murakami, who launched his trail of fashion conquests with the Miyake relationship. Murakami's recent collaboration with Marc Jacobs at Louis Vuitton, however, was of a completely different nature. Harold Koda, director and curator of the Costume Institute at the Met, describes it thus: "what happens when an artist overlays their work onto a form predicated by a designer is that they're decorating. It's no longer their art. With Vuitton, it's Murakami's palette, but not his pattern."

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