Yoshiyuki Miyamae: Let me quickly talk about the latest concept before we get into the technology. For Issey Miyake it’s always been design at the core, creating a garment from a piece of yarn into fabric. Yoshiyuki Miyamae: We call this 3D Steam Stretch, it’s a special product for Issey Miyake. This is also a part of the process that we don’t take lightly, months of testing is carried out before the products are sold to customers. Yoshiyuki Miyamae: I’ve already got too many ideas, but definitely. One of the things that we always bear in mind is the possibility of working together as a team. 3D printers still have a huge restriction with materials, which tend to be hard and uncomfortable to wear. But at the same time, it works as a positive pressure because that’s a deadline. I think that through our research, some day we can come up with something satisfactory and wearable. That basically satisfies for us that it is okay for long-term usage. “There are so many clothing brands nowadays, so readily available. I’m not very keen that I only have six months between collections, it’s basically too short for me to pack all the ideas in. It’s very important to keep the balance between using digital software and those more manual techniques. So we have to feel the texture and like it, and we have to feel comfortable wearing them. I believe that because of the rich experience he learned from Issey Miyake’s company, now he’s very fortunate to have that background to be able to do his own thing. For the time being, this is at the core of what we’re doing. Yoshiyuki Miyamae: Obviously because I’m from the generation where digital software and computer technology is readily available, from that point of view I’m not too conscious that we have to put importance onto the usage of digital software as such. We want to tell everyone that we take importance in being innovative with technology and coming up with new ideas from it.”
Miyamae was speaking to Dezeen in London ahead of the opening of Issey Miyake’s flagship store on Brook Street, designed by former Miyake employee Tokujin Yoshioka last month. Dan Howarth: How many times can you wash the 3D Steam Stretch garments? On top of this pleating technology, I don’t know whether you’re familiar with the other side of Issey Miyake’s technology, which is called A-POC – A Piece of Cloth – which we’ve developed as a collaboration with outsourced factories and people. We want to keep our position as an innovative company among the fashion brands in the world. I also love the way that the huge glass windows are used, they’re really successful. To get to this point took us more than three years to come up with and perfect this technology. We shouldn’t forget about the more basic things. We need to check if it deteriorates, it you can sit on it and it keeps its form. We’re thinking about the possibilities of applying it into interior design, or products or architecture. The way I came to this point is through endless research and experimenting at the paper stage and gradually translating it into fabric. At the end of the day we’re a fashion brand, our task is to keep coming up with wearable exciting clothes so they have to become a reality. Dan Howarth: Is technology changing and transforming the fashion industry? But this technology could also be used in other industries. In a couple of years we could come up with some amazing interior products. That kind of convenience is important and I’m interested in it. This is only my second collection using this technology, the first was Autumn Winter 2014. Myself and Issey Miyake always feel very appreciative that those technologies are available for us, but at the same time we put importance on ideas. I have to think of everything in a linear way. Probably that attitude is never going to change for us over the next 50 or 100 years. Yoshiyuki Miyamae: I obviously feel a great responsibility, but it’s not all on me. Yoshiyuki Miyamae: As you can imagine, not only is it just about standard fashion practice, it’s more about technology and mathematical ideas that have to go into it. I feel really grateful that because at Issey Miyake it’s already been established, all the high-end technology to create pleats on the fabric. For example the 3D Steam Stretch technology took us over a year, even when we had a fabric close to the right shape, we had to go through numerous tests about how many times you can wash it. Usually it tends to be that when a designer like myself comes up with an idea of clothes, what we do is start to outsource fabrics then bring them into the company to cut and develop it. We usually tend to work like that and to make one paper prototype takes about a day to make it work. We ask our staff to wear it every day and wash it at the end of the day, and it still goes back to the form. Within our team we have a lot of fun coming up with new ideas and experimenting with new technologies, and completely new ideas for design. I was inspired by the natural patterns that winds create. These two technologies that are already established at Issey Miyake were combined to get to this. Working as a team we have to understand what each of us is doing, who is a specialist in which field in terms of process and garment making. It’s a difficult and complicated process. Yoshiyuki Miyamae: I think so. Computer software is used to calculate the composition of different cotton and polyester weaves, which react to the steam and turn into three-dimensional patterns that are first tested as paper prototypes. It’s not deliberate competing as a fashion brand. But at the moment we would come up with accessories like shoes, because that would be easier because of the nature of what a 3D printer can produce. Those things are experiments and things I’ve thought about or experienced in the past. We always have to come up with a theme and a new look, but definitely the 3D Steam Stretch is one we’re going to develop. Yoshiyuki Miyamae: It’s extremely complicated! It looks like origami but it’s folded by steam, not by hand. It’s exciting and I feel very responsible, not only for myself but for the welfare of my team. In a couple of years we could come up with some amazing interior products.”
“We want to keep our position as an innovative company among the fashion brands in the world,” Miyamae said. Touching and feeling are very basic human senses so that’s very important for me. Dan Howarth: How does digital software impact your design process? The other thing is that of course the designs, technologies and ideas are realised into the clothes for the customers. That goes all the way across the Issey Miyake brand, not just what I do for womenswear but also for menswear and bags, and everything else. There are so many clothing brands nowadays, so readily available. Not only at our office, but for everyone. For me, using fashion as a platform for experimentation is the ideal situation. “Technology has been hugely influential on the fashion industry all across the world,” said Yoshiyuki Miyamae, who took over as head of womenswear at Issey Miyake in 2011 after working with the brand for ten years. Dan Howarth: Do you think technology is crucial in staying a step ahead of competitor brands? It could be about the shape of clouds, a sand dune changing shape, maybe the ripples on the surface of the water. We are thinking about it and researching it. It’s almost like I’m managing a group of people in a school. We’re already producing lighting, so we’re thinking about other products we can create with our methods and technology, that’s already happening. Maybe one day they flower and come back to me for the next collection, but it might take six months, a couple of years or longer. I particularly like the idea of contrasting the old and the new. “It’s not created by a mould or pre-formed or anything, everything is woven from scratch – from yarn into fabric.”
3D Steam Stretch fabric, which has been tested to prove that it withstands constant wear and washing, is used for garments in Issey Miyake’s Spring Summer 2015 womenswear collection shown during Paris fashion week in September. Dan Howarth: What do you think about Yoshioka’s new London store design for Issey Miyake? We tried many patterns including squares and triangles. At Issey Miyake we all start from scratch, so a bunch of really talented designers, pattern cutters, as well as technology-based people and textile specialists always have to get together. At the end of the day, clothes are for human beings to wear. I wanted to express the lightness of those phenomena and translate them to the clothes. It takes longer, but that’s how we always work. Dan Howarth: Are there any other new technologies that you’re experimenting with? It’s always important for us to start with new ideas for fabrics. This time the theme is developed into the idea that it’s to do with creasing the fabric and folding the fabric, so that’s why these things are born out of the concept. “We’re thinking about the possibilities of applying it into interior design, or products or architecture. Dan Howarth: Issey Miyake is famous for pleats. I think it’s going to be successful. I also feel very grateful that Issey Miyake himself is always there, almost like the school headmaster, managing and teaching us all including me. It’s always using past experiences, like a farmer planting seeds for different variations of flowers for example. Issey Miyake himself has always been very active at coming up with these ideas for the last 40 years and I feel very privileged to be part of the team there. How did that research inform this? It’s not created by a mould or pre-formed or anything, everything is woven from scratch – from yarn into fabric. Yoshiyuki Miyamae: Of course it puts a great pressure on sometimes, I feel the difficulty of coming up with everything perfectly in such a short time. Maybe one day soon, you’ll be able to go travelling and press a button so clothes come out and be available for you. Yoshiyuki Miyamae: It’s still research. Yoshiyuki Miyamae: It’s a yarn the same as you would find anywhere in the world, mainly polyester and cotton – ordinary materials. For us it’s very important to always start from the fashion point of view and it’s a very suitable platform for me. Everything is woven. For us, anything available nowadays like a personal computer or weaving machine are part of tools that bring ideas into reality. We created paper prototypes of the shapes. So whatever happens, I have to have something delivered. We always try to work together in harmony to come up with exciting things. Related story: Issey Miyake appoint new designer for women’s collectionThe 38-year-old designer’s most recent application of technology is the creation of a new type of fabric that contracts into rigid structures when exposed to steam, called 3D Stretch Seam. “It looks like origami but it’s folded by steam, not by hand,” said Miyamae. It has to be useful and wearable in your everyday life, so it’s exciting and fun to come up with these crazy ideas that are realistic and become useable products. Yoshiyuki Miyamae: At the moment our focus is on the folding and creasing of the fabric. We want to tell everyone that we take importance in being innovative with technology and coming up with new ideas from it.