January 31, 2023

Japanese designer Issey Miyake, famous for his pleated clothing style that never wrinkles and who produced friend and Apple Inc founder Steve Jobs’ signature black turtleneck, has passed away, media said Tuesday. He was 84.

Miyake, whose name became a byword for Japan’s economic and fashion prowess in the 1980s, died of liver cancer on Aug. 5, the Kyodo news agency said. Further details were not immediately available.

Known for his practicality, Miyake would like to become either a dancer or an athlete before reading his sister’s fashion magazines that inspired him to change direction.

Miyake was born in Hiroshima and was seven years old when the atomic bomb was dropped on the city while sitting in a classroom. He was reluctant to speak about the event later in life. Writing in the New York Times in 2009, as part of a campaign to get then-US President Barack Obama to visit the city, he said he didn’t want to be labeled “the designer who survived the bomb.”

“When I close my eyes, I still see things that no one should ever experience,” he wrote, adding that his mother died within three years from radiation exposure.

“I have tried, but unsuccessfully, to put them behind me, preferring to think of things that can be created, not destroyed, and that bring beauty and joy. I’m drawn to the field of clothing design partly because it’s a creative format that’s modern and optimistic.”

After studying graphic design at an art university in Tokyo, he learned clothing design in Paris, where he worked with the famous fashion designers Guy Laroche and Hubert de Givenchy, before moving to New York. In 1970 he returned to Tokyo and founded the Miyake Design Studio.

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In the late 1980s, he developed a new way of pleating by wrapping fabrics between layers of paper and placing them in a heat press, whereby the garments retain their pleated shape. Tested for their freedom of movement on dancers, this led to the development of his signature “Pleas please” line.

He eventually developed over a dozen fashion lines, ranging from his main Issey Miyake for men and women to bags, watches and fragrances, before essentially retiring in 1997 to devote himself to research.

When asked in 2016 what he thought were the challenges future designers would face, he told the British newspaper Guardian that people were likely to consume less.

“Maybe we need to go through a thinning process. This is important,” he said.

“In Paris, we call the people who make clothes couturiers – they develop new garments – but really the job of designing is to make something that works in real life.”