Sunday 1 December 2019

Satoshi Kondo Takes Issey Miyake in a New Direction

 A performer spins at the spectacular Spring/Summer 2020 show by Issey Miyake's Satoshi Kondo in Paris. Cover picture and all photographs for DAM by Elli Ioannou.
The debut presentation by Satoshi Kondo, the new artistic director of Issey Miyake's womenswear, was the most engaging and talked about show at Paris Fashion Week in September. The designer took on his new position just a few weeks before the Spring/Summer 2020 season opened in the French capital. We take a closer look at this innovative designer's burgeoning career. Story by Jeanne-Marie Cilento. Photography by Elli Ioannou

Models dance and skateboard wearing, light and fluid
nylon creations on the Issey Miyake
Paris SS20 runway.
ISSEY Miyake's Satoshi Kondo, took over from Yoshiyuki Miyamae, the label's former head designer of  women's collections, in September this year. Kondo's first ready-to-wear show in Paris, during fashion week, immediately injected the Japanese fashion house with a new direction, full of youthful energy and new ideas.

Yoshiyuki Miyamae had been artistic director since 2011, creating a range of innovative textiles including the malleable “Dough Dough” fabric. He will stay on at Issey Miyake, working on other research and development projects.

Kondo's debut show was celebrated for its exuberant atmosphere and mix of dance, theatre, song and acrobatic performance. The designer said he wanted the presentation to demonstrate the adaptability and versatility of his designs. He has said that bringing happiness to those who wear his clothes is the ethos that drives him: “The joy that can be found in the ritual of getting dressed every day, of finding an outfit that can make you happy for the whole day ~ that’s what inspires me.”

For this first collection he wanted to return to fundamentals and bare his design soul, "be naked" as he described it. The designer talks about tracing back the origins of clothing to simply being wrapped with a piece a of cloth and how primitive and instinctive dressing is.

Kondo's Spring/Summer 2020 collection focused on freedom of movement and it was worn by dancers with choreography created by Daniel Ezralow. Presented in a vast warehouse space, under the high glass roof of a cultural centre called Centquatre in Paris' 19th arrondissement, to a live soundscape created by French artist DeLaurentis.

Satoshi Kondo's debut show was celebrated for its exuberant atmosphere and mix of dance, theatre, song and acrobatic performance

Electric skateboards allowed the models to glide around
the vast space of the Centquatre in
Paris' 19th arrondissement
The show was made up of different chapters or scenes, each displaying various parts of the collection. These ranged from "draw - connect" at the start; to "dance - turn" at the end. There were acrobatic ballerinas, skateboarding models, dancers, and gowns that descended from the ceiling directly onto the body of the models.

Girls on electric skateboards wore cagoules with fine nylon wings that looked like sails as they scudded across the runway. Made from parachute material they billowed out as models glided around the space on the smooth concrete floor.

Kondo wanted the presentation to embody the ideas behind the collection. He worked closely with Ezralow, also the show director, to create a new approach to putting on a presentation which was designed to have a sense of growth. "It all started from a simple idea of bringing people from different regions and generations together, forming circles and holding hands, as we all share this joy intrinsic to who we are that is not bound by space and time," said Kondo, describing his original vision for the show.

There were ballerinas, skateboarding models, and gowns that descended from the ceiling directly onto the body of the models.

Satoshi Kondo's love of fashion began with drawing, since he was a child growing up in the historic Japanese city of Kyoto. As his mother was a sewing teacher, he was always surrounded by patterns, textiles and new designs. He went on to study at the Ueda College of Fashion in Osaka and graduated from its Fashion Creator Industry Masters course before winning a prize at the SOEN Awards.

Dancing models added to the show's sense of
Kondo had always been fascinated by the work of Issey Miyake and he started his career under the guidance of the great designer in 2007, becoming a member of the fashion house's design studio. He worked on the Pleats Please and Homme Plissé lines until being appointed director of womenswear.

While Satoshi Kondo oversees the collection as a whole he still speaks to Issey Miyake every day and shows him collections during their creation. The Miyake philosophy is to work with traditional techniques but also to experiment and create innovative fabrics and explore what the designer calls the "dialogue" between cloth and the body. Although Miyake has some input, he also wants Kondo to express his own ideas.

It was Issey Miyake's A-POC system using long tubes of knitted cloth ~ which can be cut without any loss of fabric ~ that inspired Kondo's original interest in the storied fashion house. Part of his latest collection includes pieces using the A-POC system. The designer believes it is the most efficient and sustainable way to create clothes because there is no need for a sewing machine and it has very little waste.

Kondo also works with the Japanese concept of "monotsukuri" or the process of creation. He says he tries to really use a piece of fabric to its full potential. This goes back to the way Issey Miyake always starts his designs with a square piece of cloth, with very little sewing or cutting. This minimal method of designing has been very influential to Satoshi Kondo's formation. But he is also exploring his own aesthetic and philosophy and this burst fully formed on to the Paris fashion stage to great applause this season.

While Kondo oversees the collection as a whole he still speaks to Issey Miyake every day
Dusky pink jersey jumpsuits and dresses
draped beautifully from the dancers' bodies
Kondo opened the show with muted, flesh toned colours before adding primary colours and an increasingly vivid palette. The opening looks were designed to show different skin tones. He then used a dusky pink jersey fabric that stretches and drapes easily on the body.

After the neutral hues, the designer brought out the more colourful designs with abstract patterns in bright hues like electric blue on white.

The motifs were designed by the Issey Miyake team. Some of the designs show embracing couples, suggesting emotional warmth. Kondo says he also wanted to maintain the Issey Miyake ethos of combining tradition and innovation in the collection. Embroidery is used on trouser and skirt suits, spelling out Issey Miyake in small letters. This "sashiko" type of stitch dates all the way back to the Edo period, the Japanese Baroque.

The designer wanted to keep the Issey Miyake ethos of combining tradition and innovation alive in the collection

After the neutral hues, colourful designs with abstract patterns
 in bright hues appeared
on the runway
Other patterns were created using a dyeing technique called "itajime" where fabric is pleated by hand to create neat folds, and then lodged between boards before being dyed.

"We find things that are intrinsic in both tradition and innovation: in the culture of weaving and dyeing practiced in Japan since the old days, and in the latest manufacturing technologies and materials developed by advanced science," explained the designer. "It is in our interest to look at them with a new perspective, and by connecting and integrating them we can begin to create clothes that bring us a sense of joy."

Kondo believes the exuberance of the collection is due to the movement of the clothes. He even gave some creations "bounce" that was shown off when the gowns descended from the glass roof. The spring in the fabric was created using a technique from the Pleats Please line: the fabric was machine-pleated horizontally then hand-pleated in concentric circles.

The dresses descending from the ceiling onto the models uplifted arms went viral on social media

Dancers wearing the pleated gowns that came down
 from the ceiling, bounce around
in a circle to the music
Transparent hoops holding outstretched colourful striped dresses, silently descended from the spaceframof the roof, as models stood below with uplifted arms.

The pleated dresses fitted perfectly over the girls and were topped off by hats. Dancers wearing the same striped gowns filled the warehouse space as other performers, suspended on cables from the ceiling, twirling in circles.

Rising to a colourful crescendo for the finale, all the models came out wearing a bright array of brilliant hues, holding hands and laughing, running and dancing down the runway. Eric Muller and Maurin Zahnd's African Nights played and the girls bobbed up and down to the music with their bouncy, knitted skirts and rubber sandals, dancing in a circle. It was one of the many feelgood moments in the show.The scene was perfectly suited to the Instagram era where the dresses coming down from the ceiling to land on the models went viral on social media. The show was both a popular and critical success, with even jaded fashion critics unable to refrain from feeling the euphoria.

Tap on photographs for a full-screen slideshow of the Paris SS20 show

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