“Miyake works in a manner that not only advances his own ideas but also cultivates skills in the people around him, constantly pushing both the tradition and the evolution of design” (Issey Miyake 2016)


Figure 1: Issey Miyake and Yasumasa Morimura. Pleats Please Guest Artist Series No. 1, 1996-7, polyester screen print, pleating, Dimensions: centre back 132.6 h cm. (Image location: http://artsearch.nga.gov.au/Detail.cfm?IRN=13979)

In 1996, Issey Miyake began a series of works with four artists who were given a blank canvas of permanently pleated, polyester, one size fits all garments. The first artist for the Pleats Please Guest Artist Series was Yasumasa Morimura.

Miyake had a pre-existing interest in the pleat, evident in Madame T (Figure 1). As described by die-hard pleat enthusiast and Professor of Visual and Environmental Science at Harvard University, Giuliana Bruno, Madame T is “A piece of living, pleated, folded fabric, full of folds; nothing more. Inside this fabric, there is a hole.” (2003, 116). Bruno also acknowledges the wearer’s “active role in fashioning it…”, as the garment can be worn in many ways (as a t-shirt, dress, jacket, cape, cloak, shawl, head scarf. Who has a jacket that can be a headscarf??), clearly only limited by the wearers imagination (2003, 116). The pleat is now appreciated as a conjunction between fashion, architecture and art, namely the Futurists, according to Bruno (2003, 117).

madame t.jpg

Figure 2: Issey Miyake. Madame T, featuring Beyonce. (Image location: https://totokaelo.com/pleats-please/madame-t/black/NNC52D)

Miyake perfected the pleat, “Unlike its predecessors, these pleats remained permanently in the fabric’s “memory” and never had to be returned for re-pleating.”, through a technique involving heat press and washi paper (Issey Miyake 2014).

It is evident Miyake is highly conscious of the relationship between garment and wearer. In response to the Guest Artist series he claims, “On a hanger on a wall…Pleats Please is two-dimensional, like a painting. When it’s worn, however, it becomes three-dimensional.” (Brubach, 1996). Acknowledging the intrinsic relationship between object and audience began with Roland Barthes’ 1967 essay Death of the Author which placed unprecedented importance on how the audience gave art meaning. It could be argued fashion is the ultimate platform for investigating this shift in power on a level available to all people, who wear clothes.

His theories also gave birth to appropriation and questions of authorship. Enter Yasumasa Morimura.

Morimura is a Japanese artist known for his appropriation pieces and “his witty, gender-bending attacks on Western masterpieces” (Rosenburg, 2015). A perfect example of his postmodern context, Morimura’s oeuvre explores issues surrounding identity, gender, the East/West and Orientalism and the implications of a dominant Western Art history. He’s ‘been’ Picasso, Cindy Sherman, Van Gough’s sunflowers, a pregnant Mona Lisa and even everyone in Velázquez’s Las Meninas (figure 2), my personal favourite. (for all works, visit: http://www.luhringaugustine.com/artists/yasumasa-morimura/artworks).

las man.jpg

Figure 3: Yasumasa Morimura
In praise of Velasquez: Distinguished ones in confinement, 2013
Edition of 10 and 2 artist’s proofs
23 5/8 X 19 5/8 inches
(60 X 50 cm.)
(image location:http://www.luhringaugustine.com/artists/yasumasa-morimura/artworks/velasquez?view=slider#1 )

la source.gif

Figure 4: Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, The Spring, 1820-1856Oil on canvas,H. 163; W. 80 cm. (image location: http://www.musee-orsay.fr/en/collections/works-in-focus/painting.html?no_cache=1&zoom=1&tx_damzoom_pi1%5BshowUid%5D=2032)

For the collaboration, Morimura appropriates Ingres’ La Source (figure 3). It caught my eye at first because it reminded me of those terrible BBQ joke aprons (figure 4). Also, given the medium, it’s a pretty fitting opportunity to draw attention to issues in our Western Art history regarding the female nude and, in the context of the piece, the primary issues surrounding the role of model in the fashion industry*. It’s completely suitable that the image printed onto the pleats is rendered so clear and so permanent the image will never escape the garment’s “memory” (Issey Miyake 2014).


Figure 5: apron, original designer unknown (image location: http://img.dxcdn.com/productimages/sku_418786_2.jpg)

Like any artist collaboration, cultural capital is at play, three fold. Throughout his career, Miyake is known to “explore the margins of art and fashion, supported by technological advancement” (Clark 2012, 68). Ingres’s La Source is easily recognisable as a piece of Western Art, thus claiming its own inherent ‘aura’.  Marimura is the appropriation artist who is asking us to look further into representations then we’ve been told to in the past.

The collaboration between Miyake and Morimura is successful because each artist has an intrinsic understanding of their own respective field and context. Together their essential concerns aren’t compromised, but just as strong.

* (“In the late 1990s, European designers like Martin Margiela, Hussein Chalayan and Alexander Mcqueen… [substituted] dummies for fashion models on the catwalk.” “Their dummies or dolls echoed the ambiguous subject – object status of the model since the 19th century….” (Evans 2003, 165)


Bathes, Roland. 1997. “Death of the Author” Image Music Text. 142-48. London: Fontana

Bruno, Giuliana. 2003. “Pleats of Matter, Folds of the Soul”. Log. 1: 113-122 Accessed 19 August 2016 http://www.jstor.org.libraryproxy.griffith.edu.au/stable/41764958

Brubach, Holly. 1996.” But is it Art?” The New York Times, 17 November. Accessed 19 August http://www.nytimes.com/1996/11/17/magazine/but-is-it-art.html

Evans, Caroline. 2004. Fashion at the Edge. London: Yale University Press

Issey Miyake. 2014. “The Concepts and Work of Issey Miyake” Last Modified 2014 http://mds.isseymiyake.com/im/en/work/

Rosenburg, Karen. 2015. “Yasumasa Morimura.” New York Times, 15 January. http://blog.fidmmuseum.org/museum/2012/06/issey-miyake-guest-artist-series-no-1-yasumasa-morimura.html