Why Issey Miyake was Steve Jobs' favorite designer

No wonder, really, that Issey Miyake is Steve Jobs’ favorite designer. The man behind Mr. Jobs’ personal uniform of mock black turtlene...


No wonder, really, that Issey Miyake is Steve Jobs’ favorite designer.

The man behind Mr. Jobs’ personal uniform of mock black turtlenecks, which died August 5 at age 84, was a pioneer in many ways – the first foreign designer to parade at Paris Fashion Week (in April 1974), among the first designers to collaborate with artists and a proponent of “comfort dressing” long before the term does not exist. But it was his understanding and appreciation of technology and how it could be aesthetically exploited to create alluring new utilities that set Mr. Miyake apart.

Before there were wearables, before there were smart jackets, before there were 3D-printed sneakers and laser-cut lace, there was Mr. Miyake, pushing the boundaries of design. material innovation to connect the past and the future. He was the original fashion tech champion.

It all started in 1988 with Mr. Miyake’s research into the heat press, and how it could be used to create garments that started out as a fabric two or three times larger than normal, which was then pressed between two sheets of paper and introduced into an industrial machine. that shaped it into sharp folds, which in turn became garments that never creased, fell flat, or required complicated fastenings. In 1994, these garments formed a separate line known as Pleas please (later transformed into a men’s version, Homme Plissé): a re-engineering of Mario Fortuny’s classic Grecian drapes into something both practical and oddly fun.

So it happened: Next came an experiment involving a piece of continuous yarn fed into an industrial knitting machine to create a piece of fabric with built-in seams that traced different garment shapes – which in turn could be cut as desired by the wearer, thus eliminating manufacturing waste. Known as A-POC (a piece of fabric), the collection was introduced in 1997, decades before ‘zero waste’ became a wake-up call for the responsible fashion movement.

And then there was 132 5, which Mr. Miyaki debuted in 2010 (after stepping back from day-to-day responsibilities while remaining involved with his brand). Inspired by the work of computer scientist Jun Mitani, it included flat items in intricate origami folds that opened up to create three-dimensional pieces on the body. The collection was developed in collaboration with Mr. Miyaki’s in-house research and development team, founded in 2007 and known as Reality Lab. (The name – not to be confused with Meta’s Reality Labs division, though arguably its precursor – was also later used for a retail store in Tokyo.)

Pieces from all these lines are now included in the collections of museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Artthe modern Art Museumthe Victoria & Albert Museum and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. They are extraordinary sculptures – soft sculptures that transform and move with the body – but what makes them unique is that they were designed not only as beautiful things but as solutions to everyday needs (a value fundamental to Miyake was the importance of “clothes for living”). And they worked like that.

This is where the black turtleneck comes in. It was by no means Mr. Miyake’s most interesting piece of clothing. It was perhaps even his most banal. But it embodies its founding principles and serves as a door through which anyone not particularly interested in fashion could enter to discover the Miyake universe. This is exactly what Mr. Jobs did.

Indeed, it’s no coincidence that Mr. Jobs’ own exposure to Mr. Miyake came through technology. Or so the late founder of Apple, told Walter Isaacson, his biographer.

According Mr. Isaacson’s Book, “Steve Jobs”, Mr. Jobs was fascinated by the uniform jacket that Mr. Miyake created for Sony workers in 1981. Made from ripstop nylon with no cuffs, it included sleeves that could be unzipped to transform the jacket into a vest. Mr. Jobs loved it and what it stood for (corporate connection) so much that he asked Mr. Miyake to create a similar style for Apple employees – albeit when he returned to Cupertino with the idea, he was “booed off the stage”. he said to Mr. Isaacson.

Still, according to Mr. Isaacson’s book, the two men became friends, and Mr. Jobs often visited Mr. Miyake, eventually adopting Miyake clothing – the black turtleneck – as a key part of his own uniform. It was a garment that eliminated an unnecessary fold at the neck, which had the ease of a t-shirt and a sweatshirt but also the fresh and minimal lines of a jacket.

Mr. Miyake did “like a hundred of them,” said Mr. Jobs, who wore them until his death in 2011, in the book. (Mr. Isaacson wrote that he saw them stacked in Mr. Jobs’ closet, and the book’s cover features a portrait of Mr. Jobs wearing, of course, a fake black turtleneck.)

Even more than his Levi’s 501 and his New Balance shoes, the turtleneck has become synonymous with Mr. Jobs’ particular blend of genius and focus: the way he chose a uniform to reduce the number of decisions he had to make. in the morning, the better to concentrate on his work. It was a sartorial approach later adopted by adherents, including Mark Zuckerberg and Barack Obama. Also its ability to mix the elegance and utility of soft corners not only in its own style, but also in the style of its products.

As Ryan Tate wrote in Gawkerthe turtleneck “helped make him the most recognizable CEO in the world” Troy Patterson of Bloomberg called it “the garment of a secular monk”. It was so ingrained in pop culture that Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos she later adopted it as she tried to convince the world of her own Jobs-esque brilliance, even though Mr. Miyake’s brand retired the style in 2011, after Mr. Jobs died. (An updated version has been reintroduced in 2017 as “The semi-dull T”)

It didn’t matter. By then, the whole ethos of the garment had been transformed. Before Mr. Jobs met Mr. Miyake, after all, the black turtleneck was largely the domain of beatniks and Samuel Beckett, associated with clove cigarettes, downtown and poetry readings (also ninjas, cat burglars and anyone who wanted to blend in with the night). Then it meant paradigm shifts.

But that wouldn’t have been the case without Mr. Miyake. Mr. Jobs was not the typical fashion cliché muse. But even more than the architects and artists who turned to Miyake garments, he became the designer’s ambassador in history: a truly populist part of a legacy that helped shape not only the rarefied inner sanctum of design, but the essence of our way of thinking. about the dress.

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