Monday 4 April 2016

The Creative Universe of Japanese Design House Issey Miyake

Rehearsals in Paris for Issey Miyake's AW16 runway show with models wearing the design house's finely-pleated sculptural creations. Cover picture and all photographs by Elli Ioannou

In Paris, our special correspondent and photographer Elli Ioannou went backstage to shoot the elaborate preparations for the Issey Miyake AW16 show and attended the launch of a comprehensive new book about the Japanese designer's life and work by Taschen

Homage to Issey Miyake's signature style
ONE of the many traits which separates Issey Miyake from other haute couture creative directors is his approach to nurturing young designers. The Japanese designer gives them a platform from which they can develop their skills and talent and offers a five year tenure. Yoshiyuki Miyamae is Issey Miyake's current womens' wear designer since 2010 but has been a member of the design team since 2006, under Dai Fujiwara. The AW16 womens’ range in Paris is a visual homage to the origins of the Issey Miyake signature style including traditional shapes, colours and textures and using his innovative fusion of technology, art and fashion. Called Beyond, the collection drew its inspiration from the vastness of the universe and beauty born from a piece of cloth using Miyake's “baked stretch” and “3D steam stretch” techniques.
The fabric's 'memory' holds the pleats
It was during the late 1980s when Miyake began to experiment with new methods of pleating that would allow flexibility of movement for the wearer as well as ease of care and production. The garments are cut and sewn first, then sandwiched between layers of paper and fed into a heat press, where they are pleated. The fabric's 'memory' holds the pleats, when it is liberated from the paper cocoon, it is ready to wear.

Backstage the special make-up is created
Leading up to the fashion house's latest show, preparations by the Miyake production teams happen simultaneously and very calmly. At times

it appears more like a theatre rehearsal: testing the lighting, runway, choreography, model positions and last minute alterations to the clothes. The electronic sounds of experimental duo Ei Wada and Haruka Yoshida from the Open Reel Ensemble play ecstatically, oblivious to all the activity around them. Gathering before the show are invited guests, an array of VIP’s, buyers, shop managers and press from the Issey Miyake global team. They are all wearing complete Issey Miyake ensembles and carrying a version of the must-have Bao Bao bag. By the final rehearsal, it feels like a full house with at least 150 people sitting in the audience.

On the runway, working on the show's rehearsal
The rehearsals before fashion shows offer a special time also for photographers to capture something different. Without an audience there is an unusual intimacy between the photographer and the models. Then the show finally opens in almost complete darkness, the intricate sounds of the Open Reel Ensemble set the atmosphere for the collections’ theme of Beyond. The ensemble, who appear more like scientists than musicians, immerse the audience in an all-encompassing experience of sound amid the blackness, apart from some light coming from the sound stage and mist rising from below.

Musicians Ei Wada & Haruka Rashida in Paris
Ei Wada and Haruka Roshida also created an instrument, the Kankisenthizer which they use during the show. It’s purpose being to explore light being transformed into sound. A machine using photosensitive sensors create the light the audience sees transmitted via the blades of exhaust fans. A burst of white light, reveals models coming down a metallic runway wearing colours of royal red, fuchsia pink and aqua blue with strong textures and origami-like shapes. Welcome to the deep and atmopsheric universe of Issey Miyake.

Dickenson at the book launch
To coincide with the AW16 Paris show, the fashion house  also launched the simply-titled Issey Miyake published by Taschen at the Paris flagship store. An international and cosmopolitan crowd of guests gathered for the book launch and had the opportunity to preview the large coffee-table book that draws on more than 40 years of collaborative work with Miyake. A comprehensive and encyclopedic reference, the book covers all of the designer's fabric and technical innovations through his designs. There are also privileged behind-the-scenes, including stories from one of Issey Miyake’s early models from the Eighties, Debbie Dickinson.

Backstage in Paris for Issey Miyake's AW16 runway show with models wearing the design house's finely-pleated sculptural creations. Cover picture and all photographs by Elli Ioannou

Growing organically like a fern frond, a detail of the decoration integral to one of Issey Miyake's new pieces shown on the AW16 runway in Paris

Models wait to walk on to the runway at Issey Miyake's AW16 show in Paris
Enveloped by flowing, pleated long jackets, models strut the runway during rehearsals
Long, black leather boots contrast with the airy lightness of Miyake's creations
 Mist rises during the atmospheric show set to the intricate sounds of the Open Reel Ensemble

 A model has her make-up created before the runway show

Alterations are made to the clothes during the rehearsals in Paris

Models are instructed about the choreography of the Parisian show 

A cylindrical dress in red with pleats that seem to wrap around the body

Brilliant colour was mixed with strong, asymmetrical shapes to create the new Issey Miyake show

 Photographer Elli Ioannou captures the subtle movement of the Miyake clothes on the runway

Architectural in its conception, this long coat was one of the stand out pieces in the new collection

A graphic piece of designer Issey Miyake's work on show at the launch of the book about his life and work in Paris

A guest at the Taschen book launch wears a stylish, pleated hat that captures the Miyake aesthetic
The new book launched in Paris about the designer's work and his avant-garde techniques using different fabrics

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