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Issey Miyake

Issey Miyake

There’s a reason Issey Miyake’s geometric, transformative ‘Bao Bao’ bags have gone viral. It’s just difficult to pinpoint exactly what that reason is.

It’s certainly not just brand name.  While Issey Miyake is celebrated by artists, designers and philosophers as one of the most influential creatives of this century, he is virtually unknown to the scores of brand-name obsessives whose appetite for the next it-bag knows no bounds. While not exactly intentional, this is mainly because Miyake has put himself in an entirely different category.

Famously averse to the idea of ‘fashion’, - Miyake considers himself a designer and prefers the term ‘clothing’ -  the Japanese designer’s approach to said garments is more philosophical than seasonal.

Miyake cut his teeth with Givenchy in 1960’s Paris, but ever since returning to Japan in the 1970’s his entire design process has been about ‘one piece of cloth’.  In the words of his studio’s website, “His process explores the fundamental relationship between the body, the cloth that covers it, and the space and room that is created between these elements.”

Such an approach has resulted in some of the most technical, innovative and forward-looking clothing and accessories that the world has seen. There’s ‘Pleats Please’, the collection of un-creasable clothing made from heat-treated polyester, praised by The New York Times for its ability to be “rolled up in a suitcase and unpacked to look as crisp and springy as… when you packed them.” 

There’s ‘APOC’, (an acronym for A Piece of Cloth) wherein tubes of fabric are machine-processed and can be cut into various shapes by the consumer.

Then, of course, there’s the Bao Bao collection.  Constructed from flexible grids of leathery vinyl triangles linked together with polyester mesh, Bao Bao bags are like clay in the hands of a sculptor, their shape and composition entirely at the whim of their owner.  

Conceived in 2000, the popularity of the Bilbao-inspired bag design has never abated and is now fiercely protected by the Issey Miyake brand. New collections are shown biannually at Paris Fashion Week, and special edition colours and styles are created exclusively for carefully scrutinized, non-Japanese stockists. Each prototype is thoroughly road-tested by the Bao Bao Issey Miyake staff before going into production, which means the bags themselves are a feat of both artistic ingenuity and practicality.

In Australia, Issey Miyake is most famous for his eponymous perfume line. But this is also the man behind Steve Jobs’ black turtlenecks, the Lithuanian 1992 Olympic team uniform, and most impressively, the 21 21 Design Sight museum which he opened in collaboration with Japanese cast-concrete architect Tadao Ando. More than just a place for exhibitions, the museum is a dedicated space for design research and prototyping.

“Today, it is accepted that all design intersects, there are no boundaries between art, design and other creative activities and they all intersect,” Mr. Miyake told The New York Times in 2014.

 “I believe that all forms of creativity are related.”

Connecting fashion, art and technology, Issey Miyake’s Bao Bao bags are perhaps the best reflection of this philosophy.  And might just explain how they’ve achieved their cult status. 

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 The Bao Bao Issey Miyake December 2017 collection is available now.