Tthere are few designers whose names have become as synonymous with fashion innovation as Issey Miyake, the Japanese artist who built his reputation on crisp pleats, edgy cuts and iconic fragrances. Miyake, who had liver cancer, died on August 5 in Tokyo at the age of 84. His death was announced on August 9 by the Miyake Design Studio, the avant-garde creative hub he founded in 1970.
During her lifetime, Miyake’s work in fashion was acclaimed for its technological precision and artistry. His origami-style pleating technique was as much an engineering feat as a sartorial statement. And its design philosophy was refreshing and democratic; he believed in creating beautifully crafted items that were also comfortable, affordable, and practical enough for everyday use by ordinary people – garments that transcended gender, size, race, and age.
In this, Miyake’s approach to design was inherently human, a quality that was undoubtedly influenced by his life experiences. As a child growing up in Hiroshima, he survived the atomic bomb dropped by the United States in 1945, losing his mother three years later to radiation poisoning. Although he was very private about the event and his personal life throughout his career, Miyake shared that the Hiroshima attack affected him deeply, writing a powerful 2009 op-ed for the New York Time denounce the use of nuclear weapons.
Miyake, who said “design is not for philosophy, it’s for life”, was dedicated to functional, accessible and joyful work. Here, a look back at four of Miyake’s most popular and innovative creations.
Pleats Please on a Paris catwalk in November 1994. (Photo by Yoshikazu TSUNO—AFP/Getty Images)
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In the ’80s, Miyake pioneered a patented permanent micro-pleat style that used a heat-treating system to create a distinctive, long-lasting look. The elaborate process involved pleating already assembled garments, instead of the fabric itself, making garments two or three times their final size before folding, ironing and lacing the garments in paper and a heat press. Adding texture to sewn garments ensured that Miyake’s pleated creations could be machine washed and air dried without losing their shape. The style was so popular that in 1993 the designer launched an entire line called Pleats Please, which is still in production and highly sought after to this day.
Perfumes and cologne Issey Miyake
Miyake launched its first fragrance, L’Eau d’Issey, in collaboration with Japanese cosmetics giant Shiseido in 1992. Drawing inspiration from its name and top notes water, which Miyake considered the greatest material and source of inspiration, the perfume became a cult classic thanks to its fresh, airy scent and striking bottle, which Miyake based on the sight of the moon behind the Eiffel Tower that could be seen from his Parisian apartment. Since the launch of L’Eau d’Issey, Miyake has released over 100 different perfumes and colognes.
Steve Jobs signature black turtleneck
Steve Jobs in October 2004.
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The uniform of the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs – a black turtleneck, jeans and sneakers – became the stuff of Silicon Valley legend, even driving the future tech mogul to disgrace, Elizabeth Holmes, to copy her trademark look. It was Miyake’s work that first inspired Jobs to create his uniform. According to Walter Isaacson, Jobs’s biographer, the technology pioneer visited Sony’s headquarters in Japan in the early 1980s and was struck by the futuristic yet simple employee uniform vests, designed by Miyake in 1981 for the company’s 35th anniversary. Viewed by Sony’s uniform concept as a way to help employees bond with each other, establish a sense of belonging within the company and maintain their professionalism, Jobs contacted Miyake to create a similar jacket for Apple. While early plans for an Apple uniform were scrapped, Jobs remained enthralled with the idea of creating one for himself. For his look, he selected Levi’s 501 jeans, New Balance sneakers, and custom Issey Miyake black turtlenecks, which he bought in bulk for $175 each, eventually amassing a collection of more than 100 of them. them.
The Bao Bao bag
The Bao Bao bag spotted in Paris in June 2021.
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In a world filled with designer bags that double as status symbols, Miyake’s Bao Bao bag is associated with intellect, artistry and creativity, giving its wearer the feeling that they can channel all these features. The bag debuted in 2000 as the Bilbao, named after the impressive Guggenheim Museum designed by Frank Gehry; the many blueprints of the building have been carried over into the design of the bag. Later renamed Bao Bao in 2010 as part of a rebranding effort, the bag now comes in many different iterations, from bags to fanny packs. Whatever the style, with its mesh fabric and interlocking polyvinyl triangles, the Bao Bao is designed to evoke geometric wonder, changing shape as its wearer fills it with personal items.
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