Issey Miyake, the innovative fashion designer and the mind behind Steve Jobs’ signature black mock turtleneck sweaters, quietly succumbed to a bout with liver cancer in his native Japan this past Friday. The celebrated creator of Miyake Design Studio and the Pleats Please collections was 84 years old. A very private man, Miyake’s offices have confirmed that a funeral service had already been held, and there is no information as to whether he had any family members who survived him.
Miyake was known for incorporating technology with traditional handcraft techniques, which led to the eventual development of micro-pleating. However, he believed research and development was only meant to enhance creativity, not replace it. “Technology is valuable in a world with diminishing resources in terms of lowering waste and facilitating mass production,” Miyake told CNN in 2016, “but we can never lose sight of the power of the touch of human hands.”
In a press release, the Miyake Design Studio and the Issey Miyake Group wrote: “Never one to embrace trends, Miyake’s dynamic spirit was driven by a relentless curiosity and desire to convey joy through the medium of design… He never once stepped back from his love, the process of making things. He continued to work with his teams, creating new designs and supervising all collections under the various Issey Miyake labels. His spirit of joy, empowerment and beauty will be carried on by the next generations.”
Despite being heralded for his contributions to the fashion world, Miyake actually did not like being called a fashion designer. “Anything that’s ‘in fashion’ goes out of style too quickly,” he told Parisvoice in 1998. “I don’t make fashion. I make clothes.” And his experiences as a 7-year-old during the Pacific Ocean Theater of World War II firmly informed Miyake’s personal push to be seen as a social change agent as well.
“When I close my eyes, I still see things no one should ever experience: a bright red light, the black cloud soon after, people running in every direction trying desperately to escape… I remember it all. Within three years, my mother died from radiation exposure,” Miyake wrote. “I realized that I have, perhaps now more than ever, a personal and moral responsibility to speak out as one who survived what Mr. Obama called the ‘flash of light,’” he added.