Issey Miyake, designer known as the prince of pleats, dies at 84

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Designer Issey Miyake, known in the fashion world as the prince of pleats and for his innovative cuts and daring styling, has died of cancer. He was 84 years old.

His studio, Miyake Design Office, said on Tuesday that he died Aug. 5 of liver cancer, according to The Associated Press.

The trailblazing designer, who became a star in the 1970s shortly after establishing his studio, was best known for his origami-style pleated garments that never wrinkle and for crafting the founder’s signature black turtlenecks. Apple, Steve Jobs.

Japan’s public media organization, NHK, reported that a family funeral had been held and that there would be no more public events, in accordance with Miyake’s wishes.

Miyake has always remained true to his “basic design style – creating clothes from original materials starting with the search for a single thread”, a technique that “transcended generations” and “broke the boundaries between East and West,” his studio’s website reads.

His clothes were not tight-fitting like those of his Western counterparts, as he championed freedom of movement and placed particular emphasis on each piece of fabric to begin his streamlined designs. They were often made with minimal decoration and detail, in broad shapes and block colors.

“To me, clothes shouldn’t be things that confine or enclose the body…clothes should set it free,” Miyake said at a conference in Washington in 1998. “Maybe I’m making tools. People buy the clothes and the clothes become tools for the creativity of the wearer,” he added.

His creations have been worn by many celebrities and exhibited in museums around the world. There are 136 Miyake stores in Japan and another 134 worldwide. He then designed handbags, watches and perfumes before taking a step back in 1997.

Miyake, born in Hiroshima in southern Japan in 1938, was 7 years old when the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city in 1945, killing tens of thousands of people, including his mother, who died of a radiation exposure three years later, he wrote in an op-ed for The New York Times in 2009. He said he never wanted “to be defined by my past.”

“I didn’t want to be labeled ‘the designer who survived the atomic bomb’, so I always avoided questions about Hiroshima. They made me feel uncomfortable,” he wrote, urging President Barack Obama to visit the city during a tour of Asia. “But now I realize this is a topic that needs to be discussed if we are ever to rid the world of nuclear weapons.”

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“I close my eyes, I still see things that no one should ever experience,” he wrote. “Bright red light, the black cloud soon after, people running in all directions desperately trying to escape – I remember it all.”

Miyake went on to study graphic design at an art college in Tokyo, according to Reuters, then clothing design in Paris, where he worked as an apprentice for fashion designers Guy Laroche and Hubert de Givenchy. He then moved to New York and then to Tokyo.

Apple co-founder Jobs told his biographer that he asked the Japanese designer to make him a uniform for his company’s staff, but the idea was quickly dismissed by employees. Jobs, who died aged 56 in 2011, began wearing black shirts, often paired with stiff blue jeans and white sneakers.

“So I had Issey make me a couple of his black turtlenecks that I liked, and he made me like a hundred of them,” Jobs said, pointing to a stack in his wardrobe. “I have enough to last the rest of my life.”

Suliman reported from London, Inuma from Tokyo.

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