Japanese Modernism Across Media

Issey Miyake: Transcending Binaries

“I don’t design anything special. I’m often represented as inventing these unusual designs, when in fact I try to stay as far away from the unusual, the odd, as possible. It is the challenge of the age, to maintain ordinary sensibilities. Bit by bit, without even realizing it, we are becoming less and less able to understand ordinary things. By ordinary, I don’t mean what happens as we walk down the street each day. I want to be continually inspired by the long history of mankind and nature, to discover, again and again, the threads that link together all of the things human beings have created, from the distant past right up to the present. I want to create situations in which things can happen naturally, and can connect as they should.”

—— Issey Miyake, 12 Japanese Masters by Maggie Kinser Saiki

This virtual exhibition, created under the study of Japanese Modernism Across Media, attempts to showcase the non-binary quality of Issey Miyake's body of work in three contexts - the material, the ethnic and the commercial - throughout his prolific career since 1971. In the prologue, you will find a contextualizing bio on Issey Miyake. The following page, named "Constructed Flatness," will start with a material examination of kimono, and employ the identical construction model to facilitate the understanding of Miyake's sartorial exertions. This section will argue against the prevalent view that the designs of Miyake, as well as that of the traditional Japanese costume, are non-tailored and therefore flat, in stark contrast to the tailored, sculptural Western designs. The following section, "Not Just Japanese," unravels the cultural hybridity of Miyake’s work, rather than simply framing him as a designer from the East, a vision that not only presupposes a binary cultural relationship, but also simplifies the East as the Japanese. Last but not least, delineating a selected series of Miyake's interactions with the art world, "Fashion Meets Art" presents Miyake as an influential figure in breaking boundaries within contemporary culture genres.


Lingxuan Tang