by John Russel Jones

When I started my education in the fashion industry, I was completely taken with the European establishment: Yves St. Laurent, Emanual Ungaro, Gianfranco Ferré. By the time I’d transferred to F.I.T., though, all my attention had shifted East, to Rei Kawakubo and Comme des Garçons, Yohji Yamamoto, and, of course, Issey Miyake. The experimental, artistic nature of the Japanese designers, with their emphasis on silhouette, volume, and, of course, the color black, were the stuff a fashion student’s dreams were made of. Miyake particularly brought a sort of cinematic quality to the runway, making us feel as though we were somehow channeling an ancient samurai spirit. His passing yesterday certainly felt like the end of an era. His genius has been lauded in the past day or so everywhere from Vogue and GQ to Fast Company, as we are reminded of his famous “Pleats Please” collection of permanently pleated polyester, not to mention his contribution to the world of high-tech with Steve Jobs’s signature mock neck shirt.

“I am deeply saddened by the loss of Issey Miyake” says Roopal Patel, Senior Vice President and Fashion Director of Saks Fifth Avenue. “He was a pioneer and visionary, an artist and creative who shifted our perspective in fashion. His contributions to the fashion industry will inspire designers and generations to come. He will be greatly missed.” 

“Issey Miyake was one of the most important designers of our time — for men, as well as for women. He began by designing avant-garde fashion for women, but his emphasis on the beauty of functionality led to growing success with menswear,” says Valerie Steele, Director and Chief Curator of The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology. “Homme Plissé Issey Miyake, established in 2013, is designed for lightness and ease of movement, making it as practical and comfortable as sneakers.”

“He wasn’t just a great Japanese fashion and fabric designer, he was one of the most creative artistic minds the world has ever known. Issey Miyake succumbed to cancer this week at 84. I can say that I had the memorable experience of interviewing him for GQ in his Tokyo studio nearly 40 years ago. Unusually bright with an infectious smile and a boyish gleam in his eye, Mr. Miyake loved being challenged by questions about fashion, fabric, sculpture, and art, all of which he created like few designers before him. He had a voracious appetite for new ideas about texture, drape and a new way of wearing clothes, his inspiration often drawn from the venerable mode of Japanese kimonos. A true gentleman, a kind and knowing soul, he will forever be remembered for his countless contributions to fashion and ways of redefining art. Rest well, Mr. Miyake: you certainly deserve it,”  says Ron DiGennaro, contributing editor, Esquire and GQ.

Arigato gozaimasu.