Few designers’ names have been as synonymous with fashion innovation as Issey Miyake, the Japanese artist known for his crisp pleating, avant-garde cutting, and trademark perfumes. The iconic fashion designer sadly passed away after a successful 52-year long career after helping many people redefine themselves through clothing. Today, we honour his contributions and reflect on 5 of Miyake’s most well-known and inventive designs.

Miyake famously said that “design is not for philosophy—it’s for life”, dedicated to work with high utility, accessible, eccentric and full of joy. Let’s look at 5 of his notable popular works below.

  1. Pleats Please

Throughout his career, Miyake radically reimagined the potential of fabrics. Working with his textile director Makiko Minagawa and Japanese textile mills, he began to produce the famous Pleats collections, which use thermally processed polyester materials that are not pleated before sewing but are manufactured considerably larger and then pleated in machines.

Miyake incorporated aspects of the colour palette and the weird sculptural shells around people in these paintings, an excellent example of how his influences were always abstract and suggestive. Pleats Please, his highly commercial collection, was released in 1993.

2. Steve Jobs

Tim Mosenfelder—Getty Images

Miyake’s art was the inspiration for Jobs to design his outfit. While early plans for an Apple uniform were scrapped, Jobs remained enamoured with the concept of having one made for himself. He famously wore Levi’s 501 jeans, New Balance sneakers, and custom Issey Miyake black turtleneck sweaters, which he purchased in bulk for $175 apiece, eventually building a collection of more than 100.

3. The Bao Bao, 2000

Credit: Bao Bao

In a world of designer bags that double as status symbols, Miyake’s Bao Bao bag is connected with intelligence, artistry, and creativity, giving its bearer the impression that they can channel all of these qualities. The bag first appeared in 2000 and was renamed the Bao Bao in 2010 as part of a rebranding attempt. It now comes in a variety of variants, ranging from totes to fanny packs. Whatever the style, the Bao Bao is designed to invoke geometric wonder with its mesh fabric and interlocking polyvinyl triangles, change shapes as the owner fills it with personal belongings.

4. 1992 Olympics – Uniforms

Masaya Yoshimura

After Lithuania won independence following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1992, Miyake was commissioned to create a design for the country’s inaugural participation in the Olympic Games. The team’s costumes were a hooded jacket, t-shirts, and silver trousers made of lightweight polyester pleated in Miyake’s distinctive style.

5. Flying Saucer Dress, 1994

Nicholas Alan Cope, courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Flying Saucer Dress debuted in Miyake’s Spring Summer 1994 presentation, and was made of concertina-pleated discs in vividly coloured polyester. Miyake devised a paper-lantern silhouette with his trademark pleated-polyester manufacturing process, which allows the garment to be compressed, flattened, and expanded. When worn, this causes the garment to stretch and bounce. In 2016, the dress was on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Manus x Machina show, which explored the impact of technology on fashion.

After debuting in New York in 1971, followed by Paris in 1973, we see the many years of how Miyake combined technology and tradition, experimenting with Japanese aesthetics and the uncut, untailored clothing. He commissioned high-tech textiles that inspired a global fashion.

Cover Image Courtesy of AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau.