Dress, Pleats Please label
Pleated polyester, Guest Artist Series no 3, print design by Tim Hawkinson
Issey Miyake, Tokyo, Japan
Issey Miyake’s visionary designs combine Japanese traditions and artisan production with high-tech textiles and pioneering techniques. From the outset, his creative process has explored the relationship between the body, the cloth and the space between them.
In Miyake's Guest Artist Series from 1996 to 1998, fashion and art interact. Using one-size-fits-all permanently pleated polyester garments as a blank canvas, Miyake invited contemporary artists Yasumasa Morimura, Nobuyoshi Araki, Tim Hawkinson and Cai Guo Qiang to create specical prints for Pleats Please.
For Miyake, this collaboration was an attempt to bridge the gap between art, as something that can be hung on a wall, and a garment, whose wearer has an intimate and interactive relationship with it. Hawkinson’s series combined masculine imagery with a typically female garment, prompting us to consider the intersection of fashion and art, and challenging established notions of gender and identity.
The breakthrough of synthetic textiles such as polyester, invented in 1941, led to the development of permanently-set pleating techniques. These new fibres had thermoplastic properties which meant fabrics could become plastic on heating and harden as they cooled. Fashion designers patented various permanent pleating techniques but it is a technique now famously associated with Issey Miyake’s designs.
Asked to create clothing for Frankfurt Ballet’s performance of The Loss of Small Detail in 1991, Miyake was inspired to create clothing that would move with the body, using a new lightweight knitted material. He introduced a new technique, ‘garment pleating’. In 1993 he launched the Pleats Please line, offering clothing that was functional, easy to care for and travel with.
In Miyake’s revolutionary approach to pleating, the garments – made from single pieces of high quality 100% polyester – are cut up to three times larger than necessary and sewn first, before they are hand-fed into a heat press sandwiched between two layers of washi paper. This technique ensures the pleats remain permanently in the fabric’s memory.
Object photography © Issey Miyake Inc/National Museums Scotland