The Work of Issey Miyake at NACT, Roppongi

By Chanyn Kirtman
April 22, 2016

The National Art Center, Tokyo is now showing a comprehensive design exhibit on the works of Issey Miyake. Ten years in the making, the long-awaited exhibit showcases over four decades of Miyake’s innovative and futuristic designs. Radiating creativity and inspiration, the retrospective will capture the imaginations of everyone, not just fashion and design aficionados, and be a memorable sensory experience for adults and children.

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The entirety of the exhibition is devoted to articulating Miyake’s advanced approach to design and methodologies, as well as stimulating viewer’s creativity. Separated into three different rooms, we are taken behind the scenes of the designer’s “new realities,” his process of testing new methods of fabric production, and his ingenious system of creating garments from one continuous piece of cloth.

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The opening series consists of a singular row of Miyake’s earliest work, showcasing his play with materials and cultural references. We are chronologically taken through initial design philosophies and Miyake’s focus on freedom, space-to-body elements, and how the human body transforms clothing. Styles in this long, narrow room include a one-piece linen jumpsuit and the designer’s famous second-skin, tattoo-motif sheer romper.

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Walking into the second room we are given an intimate view of Miyake’s foundational creations. In a space of white walls and bright natural light, Miyake’s colorful, archival designs are worn by mannequins made up of 365 laser cut pieces of clear resin. In a press conference Miyake expressed his desire to not only carry on Japanese traditions, but also to go beyond global boundaries and not be limited by “narrow frames.” It is in this room where we can envision Miyake’s sophisticated style of pattern making as we are shown a close-up of his groundbreaking approaches and use of materials uncommon in fashion.

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The finale of the exhibition is a spectacle all itself. Archival designs and collaboration pieces are positioned throughout an enormous hall, highlighting Miyake’s most noteworthy projects. A retrospective view of Miyake’s “a piece of cloth” designs are sequentially displayed, allowing viewers to grasp the intricacy of the concept. A machine making his famous pleats is a focal point (a live demonstration is shown between 11 a.m. and noon every day). A few hands-on exhibits allow you to unfold shapes into miniature dresses, and smaller stations are prepared for children. Miyake stated in his opening speech, “I wanted to show some of my working methods and technologies I have been using these past 45 years to a broad audience, and I really think the exhibition can be enjoyed by people of all ages.” The exhibit is a true look inside Miyake’s legacy and certain to be appreciated far beyond fashion enthusiasts.

The Deets

When: Now through Mon, June 13, 2016; Sat–Thu, 10 a.m.–6 p.m., Fri until 8 p.m. (last entry 30 minutes before closing); closed on Tuesdays except May 3 

Where: The National Art Center, Tokyo, 7-22-2 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo

How much: ¥1,300 for adults, ¥800 for university students


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