koke_shi (koke_shi) wrote,

jackpot! deconstruction article/ Issey Miyake Interview

so i got this seven day trial subsciption to highbeam.com. i did it to get access to a goldmine of old articles. i didn't want to post them all on the fashion spot, so i figured i'd post them here for your amusement.

these are going to be posted at random...

Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service; 9/2/1993; Lytle, Lisa

Some fashion observers hail it as the final frontier of 20th-century fashion. Or is it just another emperor's-new-clothes conspiracy?
Deconstructionism is a radical fashion movement in which clothes are rough and raggedy, delicate and wrinkled, bleached and softened, undone and disheveled, and stitched or buttoned in weird places. It's as if a dressmaker had sewn in the dark.
Seams are exposed, hems are unfinished, linings are removed. These are not cheerful women's clothes; they're more Little Matchstick Girl than Little Orphan Annie.
Begun by Japanese designer Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garcons in the early '80s, deconstructionism picked up momentum in 1989 in the hands of Belgian designer Martin Margiela.
By the showing of the fall '93 collections last October in Paris and Milan, new avant-garde designers had joined the fold: Jean Colonna, Ann Demeulemeester, Dries Van Noten, Koji Tatsuno, Marcel Marongiu and newcomer Lamine Kouyate for Xuly-Bet.
Individually, these designers provided escape from the luncheon suit-and-ballgown mentality, which for decades was the signature of the designer establishment in Europe.
Together, they raised deconstructionism to its current apogee, said Roger Martin, curator of costumes and textiles at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Their approach to clothing _ that of breaking structure by paring clothes to simple raw forms _ was a response to the rigid structure of matched designer clothes, Martin said.
``Deconstructionism is an antidote to the ostentatious '80s. It's about austerity.''
Deconstructionism did not evolve in a vacuum.
``At the end of any century, we look back critically and skeptically. It's happening in all the arts, this revising of the way we look at history and what it means in terms of bourgeoise values.''
But is it wearable? Actress Demi Moore has been seen around town wearing a Comme des Garcons brocade dress with small, round, dark glasses.
Margiela's spring collection sold out to the piece, said Julie Gilhart, divisional merchandise manager for the designer department at Barneys New York. Except for Comme des Garcons, sold in the South Coast Plaza store, other deconstructionist labels are available by special order only this fall.
Gilhart said fall '93 marks the climax of deconstructionism. The impact of the movement can be seen in slightly tamed versions by Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel and Rifat Ozbek.
In Paris, Lagerfeld dabbled in deconstructionism with a weblike tunic over a white top, leggings and boots. In Milan, Rifat Ozbek placed an iridescent, light blue short jacket that seemed askew over a gold-tone dress.
Deconstructionism is filtering, albeit pureed and tamed, into the mainstream.
In California, young designer Lat Naylor of Think Tank leaves his men's and women's wear with a light, rough, unfinished look at more affordable prices.
Junior stores such as Wet Seal, Contempo Casuals and Clothestime now carry ribbed tops with exposed seams and unfinished edges.
Highbrow art for the body, or pretentious, ridiculous rags masquerading as intellectual work?
``I wouldn't call it art,'' Martin said. ``But what we ask of art is to be true to its time. Deconstruction is about collage, conservation and recycling. It's tied to the new age movement, and it has a '90s feeling. It is true to its time.

btw. did you know julia roberts wore comme des garcons to her wedding for lyle lovett?

Interview; 11/1/2001; Sischy, Ingrid

ISSEY MIYAKE: When I was a little boy, I wanted to be a dancer. I was interested in the way the body can express itself. Later I told people I was interested in graphic design and in becoming an artist, but that was mostly because that's what they expected me to want to do. However, I always thought fashion design was wonderful. After growing up in Hiroshima, I went to university and would get magazines from America with photographs by people like Avedon and Hiro or saw art by people like Andy Warhol. It had such power for me. I felt, through the images I saw in magazines, that clothing could be like beautiful architecture for the body. I was a graphic design student in Tokyo at the time and I was amazed at how architecture and other design fields completely ignored fashion design. It made me think that there was probably something to do there.

IS: When you were younger, were you conscious that something had to change in fashion? Did things seem too formal to you [in Japan]?

IM: That feeling started for me when I was in university and would go to parties. When it was time for me to get a job I said to myself the only place that I can work is in the couture [houses] in Paris.

IM: No, I'm someone who doesn't much understand stiff things. I like softness, things that are cottony. I like touching everything all the time. But I'm sure that I'm influenced by many sculptors, like Brancusi and Giacometti. Later when I came to New York, I got to know great artists, men like Christo and Robert Rauschenberg. They showed me another way to see, they lent me a lot of eyes. I'm covered with their eyes.

IS: Do you think that if you had grown up somewhere else, like New York City, you would have ended up doing something else, like being a sculptor?

IS: In that moment when you decided to go to Paris was it because you felt you needed to learn things about fashion that you could only learn there? Was it because you felt you needed that experience in order to survive in the field? Or was it perhaps just to get away? Because that decision changed everything.

IM: It was because I was thinking that my ultimate destination would eventually be New York. I wasn't sure I wanted to be a dress designer, but I knew I wanted to come to New York and do something new, something that only I could do. Studying in Japan just wasn't enough. I felt that to survive in the artistic field, New York was the only place to be.

IS: How did you get that feeling?

IM: Through magazines. At that time, I think magazines were much more inspiring to us visually than most of them are now. I had no money back then, so I'd always go to the public ad agency to see the latest magazines--I knew exactly when they'd arrive. I'd call repeatedly saying, "Did you get it?" and then I'd go to the office and it would be there as if by magic. It was emotional for me. And I thought, Designing clothes could be even more emotional.

IS: Tell me more about that.

IM: There's something very intimate about designing clothes. People have such individual and personal reactions to an article of clothing: "Oh, it's not for me" or "It is for me" or It's so avant-garde." They always see things from the point of view not just of their own bodies, but as a reflection of how they live, as well.

IS: So take us back to that decision to go to work in Paris. You worked for Givenchy, didn't you? Can you remember your job interview with him?

IM: That's the funny thing--it was in May 1968.

IS: What timing! That's exactly when the student riots happened at the Sorbonne, right?

IM: Yes. I went to the Sorbonne and the Place de l'Odeon to hear what they were saying, but most of it I didn't understand. It was still exciting. I had been working briefly at Guy Laroche and I was thinking I needed to change my profession, to try something else. I had a friend at the time, a Japanese girl who was a model for Givenchy, and I remember meeting her for lunch at a restaurant and she suggested I come to work at Givenchy. Next day she had it all arranged. All Mr. Givenchy said to me was that I had to stay more than one year, because you can't learn anything in less than that. It was very kind of him.

IS: What were your duties?

IM: I worked as a sketcher, doing all the drawings--I did about 50 to 100 a day. Then I had to do sketches in colors to send to people like the Duchess of Windsor and Audrey Hepburn. I learned a lot from watching him fit the clothes on the models--I could see the technique in his work. It was a great school. He was the best. He had a beautiful way of working in a very traditional way, and he was very sincere to work with, full of ethics and style, everything. But once I was there I began to think I couldn't be a designer, that I should do something completely different.

IS: Why?

IM: Because I didn't want to belong to that kind of world and society. I saw that this was not my world. They were all nice people, beautiful, but different. It just wasn't for me.

IS: It must have also been an incredible culture clash, given what was happening at that moment in Paris and across the world.

IM: Yes. And I also knew how much was happening in America.

IS: So you finished your year at Givenchy and then you came to New York.

IM: Yes. Mr. Givenchy always knew that that was my goal. I came to New York in '69 and stayed just five or six months. The first time I'd come to the city was in '68, just to visit. It was during my time at Givenchy and a friend who lived in New York suggested I come over. I stayed on 34th Street, and he showed me the whole city. One day he asked me if there was anyone in particular I'd like to meet while I was there, and I said, "Yes, Hiro." The photographer was my hero. And knowing that he spoke Japanese made him feel familiar [to me]. This friend told me that Hiro was not in town, but that there was someone else I should meet. So he took me to see Richard Avedon. I stayed almost 30 minutes and thought, New York is so friendly and wild.

IS: Can you remember your feeling the first time you came into the city from Kennedy Airport?

IM: I felt like I was arriving at some very cosmopolitan city of the future. It was a great time for me to come to New York because it was the height of the hippie era. There was Woodstock and Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix. You know, I had been living in Europe and was not into all that, was not into "Beatlemania." But that was a fascinating time. So as soon as my year in Paris was up I packed my bags and moved to your city. I took classes at Columbia and at Hunter College. Each morning I started work at 9:00 a.m. on Seventh Avenue, then I'd go to Columbia to learn English, and then every night, parties. I went everywhere--Central Park, the Village. There was so much happening in the city, underground things. It really made me think and changed the way I looked at things. And then I got sick and I had to go back to Tokyo--when I said goodbye to Japan I'd thought I'd never go back. But it also ended up being a great time when I did return to Japan. The World's Fair was going on. Young designers were doing thin gs for the World Expo. And I joined them after I got better. I needed to make money because I wanted to return to New York. And I did in 1970, but by then the economy in New York had changed completely. Times were really dark by then. So I went home to Tokyo again, where I found the light. There was the air of possibility there. I began to think, I should start something on my own. I had some friends who wanted to work with me, and I also sensed something new happening on the street.

IS: What's interesting about even your earliest clothes is how they show your intuition that technology was going to change fashion.

IM: Yes. It changed with fabrics like nylon and polyester. I was the first one to use ultra-suede--the essence of the suede. After that I thought, to make something really original I should work with people who are in the forefront of technology. I have always believed in simplicity because the human body is already something amazing-why complicate things?

IS: What's so interesting about that moment from the late '60s to the early '70s is that it was also a great moment for art and technology. It was during this period, of course, that the group known as Art and Technology was formed. Now people have forgotten about the revolutionary work of those artists, but it's interesting to think about in the context of what happened in fashion.

IM: When I was working in Paris, you know, everything was done by hand, but once I discovered the importance of technology I couldn't go back.

IS: Do you think it's because you're from Japan that you're so tuned into all that?

IM: I was probably influenced subconsciously by the technology that was exploding in Japan, because I was very aware of Sony and the other technology companies coming out then. Of course, that's something that's only clear to me in hindsight. At that time in the early '70s I was searching for a new way of doing things, and I wanted to find a new expression that was different from what had been done before. There were so many new things happening in the world of technology, but it seemed that the fashion world was still stuck in trends. I wanted the work that I was doing to be connected to the people of our times.

IS: What's so interesting to me is that here's this young designer from Japan who goes to work at Givenchy, this classic French house that's all about maintaining the old values, and yet you wanted to change the world. So take us back to that first collection you designed under your own name.

IM: I made my first collection for New York. I'll never forget it. I brought it to New York in January--one of the pieces was all polyester, but just one size and all hand-made. Because I knew I couldn't do eight and make them all incredible, I went for just one size and to do something really great. It was revolutionary at the time.

IS: Did people say to you, "What is wrong with you, are you crazy? You have to do a range of sizes."

IM: Yes, but I think they understood me because stores like Bloomingdale's immediately started working with me.

IS: To get them as a client then was a really big deal!

IM: Yes. And they gave me great exposure. I'll never forget it--I made a tattoo dress that was inspired by Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. They had both died in '70, so I wanted to do it because I think tattoo is like an homage. So I took these Japanese traditions and made them contemporary.

IS: What's interesting is that you've always had a following among creative people. This happened very quickly in Japan when you began. For example, I know that the important new architects, writers and photographers of the time in Japan all loved your clothes. And, as another example, in the '80s the New York art world fell in love with your work. To this day, at important art events one sees the loyalty that artists and gallerists feel towards your work. They're wearing it.

IM: It's the only way I could work.

IS: You mean that if you were going to work in fashion, you wanted to be connected to a community of creative minds?

IM: Yes. I'm not the person who should be in the gallery. But I have melted the plane and broken the boundaries between genres. What I do involves all sorts of people, all genres, and I think people in the art community appreciate it because they see it's another form of expression, they see another point of view. I never wanted to make clothes just for fashion shows. I preferred to develop a relationship with the people who wear my clothes. I also started working with photographers and artists and filmmakers and graphic designers--collaborating with them felt like a more natural way for me to work, and one I knew would ultimately lead to my work being seen by the world.

IS: That leads to the fact that you also figured out how to really reach the street--in fact, you succeeded in communicating in both high and low contexts. What was it about the work you started doing in the early to mid '70s that immediately made you know you'd found your voice?

IM: Working in fashion, I never wanted to be a designer's designer. I just wanted to feel on a par with other creative people that I respect, like Christo or John Cage. I was always working to strike a balance, to not be too much in fashion.

IM: Well, I think in the '80s people became very interested in fashion, and it made things easier for me than they had been before. Which was frightening in a way, too. Designers, particularly in Paris, started to thrive, and it became this competition of exaggerations. It was fun, a good experience, but I felt like I was losing something, like the more I expressed the more I lost. In the early '60s I had felt as though I was doing something special because my work was really unique. By the '80s, however, a lot of people had learned from what I was doing--texture had become very important, and I felt like I was getting closer and closer to the mainstream. So I got the idea to meet Mr. Irving Penn. The representations I was seeing of my work in the fashion magazines felt hollow to me, and I had seen images that Mr. Penn had taken and deeply respected them. So my friend took me to meet him and I explained to him that I needed just a few photos, not for printing, but to help me find what I should do next. I neve r thought to make a book with him.

IS: So let's jump to the '80s. You became very influential, and a whole other explosion happens.

IS: In fact, your relationship with Mr. Penn turned into a collaboration that has existed ever since.

IM: Yes. Initially he said he was sorry, that he didn't have time to take photographs of my work. But one year later he said he could probably try. And as soon as I heard that, I brought all the clothes for him to see.

IS: And the rest is history. Do you think your collaboration with Irving was as successful as it was because he in fact allowed you to see new things about what you were doing through his pictures?

IM: I knew there was only one person and his work who could tell me if what I was doing was all right or not, and what I should do next, and it was Mr. Penn's photographs.

IS: So let's go to the '90s. You were at the height of your career, a point at which many other designers would sit back and keep doing what they've always been doing; but instead you made a different decision--you introduced your prodigy, Naoki Takizawa, in Paris. [Takizawa is now the designer for Miyake men's and women s collections.] Tell us what led you to make that decision.

IM: Ten years ago, while I was putting together a book of my work from the '80s, and also as I made an exhibition called A-UN, I felt as though I was getting lost. So I took a backpack and went to Greece to travel around. I found I didn't need much, just underwear and socks and things. A few years earlier, in '88, I had started to make pleats from these technologically-made fibers. I began to think the concept might be good for fashion. I had to make a break again. I felt I had perhaps forgotten the life of the people, what they need. Because times had changed. I thought, Wow, this could be it--you can wear it, wash it, travel with it. And I saw that it was a marvelous thing for dancers to wear, because it holds its shape so well. So I spoke to a lot of dancers, and studied how they were wearing their clothes. Ultimately it led to the creation of the line Pleats Please. We didn't make them for fashion shows or anything like that. I said, "This is new. It's a new skin." I thought it was good for the people--th ey can sit down, they can stay neat, the fabric is easy to maintain, you can transform it from morning to night. Then in '93 I became involved in the production end of the fabric, because the prices were so high many people who wanted them could not afford the pieces. After 20 years I said to myself, "I'm finally in the fashion business."

IS: It was fashion on your own terms.

IM: Yes. At first some people said things like, "Oh, it's not for me. I have to be slimmer to wear that." But I was sure of what I was doing, that this fabric was a good thing for people's lifestyles. It's what I dreamt of doing in '68 and '69, something as simple as a T-shirt and jeans, but more widely used. I was very proud of it. I also thought to myself that people are always waiting for what they need, even if they don't know what it is. That's what happened with Pleats Please as well as my fragrance, L'Eau d'lssey. They were all waiting for something different.

IS: Understanding that is the nature of being an artist. And now there's a new boundary you've crossed. A while ago you gave up your role as the designer of Issey Miyake and handed the mantle to Naoki Takizawa. In fact, in the Issey style this move has just led to your being able to continue to push boundaries in new areas like your A-POC project, but still it must have been quite a decision to give up the daily reins that you had been involved in for so long. Now, as artistic director of it all, you ultimately oversee and OK everything that goes under your name--but you no longer helm your signature collections. How did you arrive at your decision?

IM: Well, you know six years ago I began to ask myself, "How shall I keep going? What shall I do?" I am very proud that I have so many young people who work with me and I said to one of them, "Naoki, you take the reins of the men's collection because you have the mind to go forward--that's the Miyake tradition. Don't be afraid to make a difference." Then when the time arrived a few years later, I gave him the women's line. If they need help from me, I'm there, but otherwise they are free to do what they like. I did the same with the designer in charge of research. I told them I was dreaming of learning something new. So I handed over parts of the company to give the people working there more freedom.

IS: So tell me about this latest chapter, called A-POC [available along with all the other Miyake lines at Lower Manhattan's Tribeca Issey Miyake, scheduled to open by the time this issue hits the stands].

IM: It stands for A Piece of Cloth. It's a completely revolutionary idea in fashion. I have a small team, and we're working on developing it in really exciting ways.

IS: It sounds like this is work you can do anywhere, since it's done via the computer. You're not tied to a studio.

IM: Yes. But you know, this is a reflection of the times we live in. When the Internet arrived all the young people I know were so excited by it--and I had to have it explained to me. [laughs) And the reality is that now we are all using it. Anywhere we dream we can now work.

I'm committed to creating a great future for Issey Miyake and new genes for our future. This is really a new way to work. I don't know how far we can go with A-POC, but I'm sure it's very far.
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