Brigitte Lacombe

Issey Miyake, Famed Fashion Designer, Passed Away at the Age of 84

Issey Miyake, one of the first Japanese designers to show in Paris, whose pleated clothing allowed for freedom of movement and whose name became a global byword for cutting-edge fashion in the 1980s, has passed away on Friday in Tokyo. He was 84.

Mr. Miyake’s designs appeared everywhere, from morning to night, from factory floors — he designed a uniform for workers at the Japanese electronics giant Sony — to black tie dances.

In the early years of his career, his insistence that clothing was a form of design was considered avant-garde, and he collaborated with photographers and architects. His designs were featured on the cover of Artforum in 1982, which was unprecedented for a fashion designer at the time, and are now part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

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Mr. Miyake was honored in Japan for creating a global brand that aided the country’s efforts to establish itself as an international fashion and pop culture destination. In 2010, he was awarded the Order of Culture, the country’s highest arts honor.

As one of the first Japanese designers to exhibit in Paris, he was part of a revolutionary wave of designers who introduced Japanese fashion to the rest of the world, eventually paving the way for contemporary designers such as Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo.

Mr. Miyake is perhaps best known for his micro pleating, which he first experimented with in 1988 but has recently gained popularity among new and younger consumers. It was motivated by his fashion philosophy: “Pleats Please” (2012, edited by his associate Midori Kitamura), clothes “must bestow freedom on those who wear them.”

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His Pleats Please line of clothing, released in 1993, featured waterfalls of razor-sharp, accordionlike pleats that offered the ease of loungewear. They became his most recognizable appearance. Wearing a Pleats Please piece meant discovering a lack of bodily constraint and, hopefully, a lack of emotional and creative inhibition.

Most Pleats Please garments lacked buttons, zippers, and snaps. There were no defined waistlines or tight armholes. They slipped over the body and were opaque enough that only a bra and pantyhose were required. Necklines were not too deep to be too revealing. Mr. Miyake frequently employed solid colors — blues, greens, and crimson — or fabrics printed with flowers or tattoos.

And, thanks to his patented heat treatment system, these clothes never lost their shape: even when rolled up into balls or knots, they never wrinkled or crushed, and they could be machine washed.

The distinctive Bao Bao bag Photo: Getty Images

Mr. Miyake and choreographer William Forsythe collaborated in 1991 to design pleated costumes for a Frankfurt Ballet production of Mr. Forsythe is “The Loss of Small Detail.” The male dancers wore pants before switching to dresses, and the female dancers did the same. They could leap, pirouette, and soar in whatever they wore.

But Mr. Miyake was more than just pleats. His Bao Bao bag, made of mesh fabric layered with small colorful polyvinyl triangles, has long been a favorite of creative industries. He also designed the black turtleneck that became part of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs’ signature look.

In 1992, he released L’eau d’Issey, a floral fragrance for women that ended in a woody spring scent. Mr. Miyake (along with Fabien Baron and Alain de Mourges) designed the bottle, which is a slender, minimalist inverted glass cone with a matte silver top accented with an orb. Mr. Miyake was inspired by seeing the moon rise over the Eiffel Tower one night in Paris.

On April 22, 1938, Kazunaru Miyake was born. (In Japanese, the character for Kazunaru is also written as Issey, which means “one life.”) He walked with a “pronounced limp,” Sheryl Garratt wrote in the British newspaper The Telegraph in 2010, as a result of surviving the August 6, 1945, atomic bombing of Hiroshima, his hometown. Ms. Garratt wrote that when he was 10, he developed a bone-marrow disease, and his mother died of radiation poisoning.

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“I was there, and only 7 years old,” Mr. Miyake wrote in an opinion essay in The New York Times in 2009. “When I close my eyes, I still see things no one should ever experience: a bright red light, the black cloud soon after, people running in every direction trying desperately to escape. I remember it all.”

Mr. Miyake rarely talked about that day or other aspects of his personal history, “preferring to think of things that can be created, not destroyed, and that bring beauty and joy,” he wrote in the essay.

He graduated in 1963 from Tama Art University in Tokyo, where he majored in design because fashion was not an option.

He moved to Paris in 1965 and worked as an assistant to Guy La Roche and Givenchy. He witnessed the May 1968 student protests while there, which inspired him to create clothing for everyone, not just the elite.

“I seem to be present at occasions of great social change,” he was quoted as saying in the 2017 book “Where Did Issey Come From?” by Kazuko Koike. “Paris in May ’68, Beijing at Tiananmen, New York on 9/11. Like a witness to history.”

He spent some time in New York before establishing the Miyake Design Studio in Tokyo in 1970. He frequently stated that he did not consider himself to be a “fashion designer.”

“Anything that’s ‘in fashion’ goes out of style too quickly,” he told the magazine Parisvoice in 1998. “I don’t make fashion. I make clothes.”

Interviewed by the Japanese daily The Yomiuri Shimbun in 2015, he said: “What I wanted to make wasn’t clothes that were only for people with money. It was things like jeans and T-shirts, things that were familiar to lots of people, easy to wash and easy to use.”

Nonetheless, he was perhaps best known as a designer whose styles fused fashion with technology and art. In the year 2000, he released another collection aimed at making clothing more simple by eliminating the need for cutting and sewing the fabric. A single thread could be fed into an industrial knitting or weaving machine programmed by a computer using his concept “A Piece of Cloth,” or “A-POC.” The machine formed the components of a fully finished outfit in a single process, extruding as a single tube of fabric. The clothes could be cut with scissors along demarcation lines. A single tube of fabric could be used to make a dress, a hat, and a blouse. Snip the fabric and a piece of clothing will appear.

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Mr. Miyake collaborated with architect and product designer Ron Arad to create A-POC Trampoline, a knit jacket, pants, and stole that could double as a cover for Mr. Arad’s looping, figure-eight Ripple chair, which debuted in 2006 at Milan’s annual Salone del Mobile design show.

Mr. Miyake was a famously private person — information on his survivors was not immediately available — but he was known for his close relationships with his longtime coworkers and collaborators, whom he credited with his success. Ms. Kitamura, for example, began as a fit model in his studio, worked with him for nearly 50 years, and is now president of his design studio. His collaboration with fashion photographer Irving Penn resulted in the publication of two books.

Throughout his life, “he never once stepped back from his love, the process of making things,” Mr. Miyake’s office said in a statement.

“I am most interested in people and the human form,” Mr. Miyake told The New York Times in 2014. “Clothing is the closest thing to all humans.”