Issey Miyake’s Yoshiyuki Miyamae Demonstrates Pleats, Folds, and 3-D Steam Stretch
Issey Miyake has transformed the way we look at, wear, and appreciate clothing’s every fold. Famous for pioneering the creation of intricate pleats in the late 1980s, the team behind the Japanese fashion house has been made up of hard-working, keen-eyed creators of all sorts, deeply invested in the fabrics down to the very last thread. For last year’s Holiday 2015 limited edition series “Record,” women’s designer Yoshiyuki Miyamae visited New York to demonstrate some deliberate decisions that took the brand further into innovating within its 3-D Steam Stretch technology, while offering something quite special for our long-term memories and senses.
Issey Miyake changed how pleats were made by creating them after the fabrics were cut and sewn together. This method, done since 1997, then embraced a custom type of pleat collection known as A-POC (standing for “a piece of cloth”), made into a collection for both men and women presenting one-size fabrics that were machine-pressed and given the option to be cut into various shapes, picked by the end consumer.
Miyamae joined Issey Miyake, working on A-POC in 2011. “Before I entered Issey Miyake, my only experience was actually drawing, or making clothing,” explained Miyamae on a visit last winter to New York. “But with A-POC, with starting from one piece of cloth, I really was able to learn about textiles, and actually making something.”
Just a year later, he began working with the team to create a new type of technology, now widely known as 3-D Steam Stretch, which took three years to develop and perfect. After working with a new type of fabric that contracted into origami-like pleats when exposed to steam, Issey Miyake was ready to present something new to the world. The composition of different polyester and cotton weaves were first tested as paper prototypes, and then computer software was used to create everything from scratch—from yarn into fabric, and from design into three-dimensional patterns. For their Spring/Summer 2015 collection in Paris last year, the new technologically advanced collection dominated the industry, leaving behind readily available fashion in its wake.
Demonstrating firsthand at Issey Miyake’s TriBeCa location to present the “Record” accessories, we were able to get a closer look at the craftsmanship behind 3-D Steam Stretch. On a large contraption, we watched Miyamae present an oversized piece of pre-stitched fabric—one in which he proceeded to cut and shrink with steam from an everyday iron. Before, it was a bright, smooth piece of material that hung slack to the ground. Yet with every bit of released steam from a handheld iron, we watched the fabric come alive, crinkling and shrinking into intricate patterns made of seamless polyhedron pleats. The end result hardly resembled what he started with, as a model slipped the transformed garment on over her head with ease, and swiftly walked away.
Miyamae can also be credited with building off of the idea of the 3-D Steam Stretch technology by using computer programming. The accessories collection “Record” was inspired by staff photos taken in its headquarter cities of New York, Paris, London, and Tokyo. After working with Alexis Andre of Sony Computer Science Laboratories, the team was able to extract the colors seen in the photos—a brand-new technology known as omoiiro—to establish four color schemes to match each city. “It comes from omoide, which is like a memory, so it’s basically memories that you make in the course of different experiences—taking a trip, things like that,” said Miyamae. “So memory collectors.” Each collection includes a whimsical 3-D Steam Stretch pleated bag, necklace, corsage, and an actual vinyl record that encompasses bustling sounds from each designated city “because it’s a memorable sound,” said Miyamae. “Or the memory of the sound.”
The collection is a jubilant inauguration for the future of omoiiro technology, and one that everyone is quite pleased with. “We both wanted to work together,” said Miyamae of working with Andre. “He thought [the program] was something that could contribute to the world, and it happened to be a good match with what we were looking for. But it also made Alexis happy, because it wasn’t just for Sony—it was something that could contribute to the world that this lab would be contributing. That’s part of their purpose.”
This article is published in Whitewall‘s fall 2016 Art Issue.