It starts with ‘a piece of cloth': Designer Taku Satoh explains what it’s like to work with Issey Miyake

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Special To The Japan Times

‘A Piece Of Cloth”. It is these four simple words that acclaimed graphic designer Taku Satoh cites when asked to summarize the essential appeal of Issey Miyake’s creations.

Compressing the complexity of Miyake’s creative designs into such a simple phrase is no mean feat — yet “a piece of cloth” are words that Miyake himself has used to describe the philosophy behind his designs, tapping into the dynamics between body, clothing and the space around them.

And Satoh, if anyone, should know. The Tokyo-based designer, who is also a director at 21_21 Design Sight, has collaborated with Miyake on more than 50 projects over the past 16 years, from perfume packaging to watch advertisements.

Satoh was responsible for the overall construction and direction of the new exhibition, “Miyake Issey Exhibition: The Work of Miyake Issey,” alongside Miyake and his colleagues, in addition to the display of Room C. He recently told The Japan Times what to expect and what inspired him.

How long have you been collaborating with Issey Miyake?

The first time I met Mr. Miyake was in 2000. As I recall, my first project was the packaging design of a perfume. The most stimulating part of any project with Mr. Miyake is that he suddenly comes up with an idea and then presents an item or a material alongside it. I would get confused in the beginning of course, but later I realized that my brain was just completely stimulated and awakened by his presentation. This is how various ideas are generated and connected to new ideas. This process itself is very creative. I do not know any other person who is able to tap into his instinct in such an honest manner.

What will visitors find in Room C?

In contrast to Rooms A and B with their minimal displays, Room C is constructed in a totally different manner. I emphasized the “happiness” and “cheerfulness” that you feel from the clothes creations of Mr. Miyake. These were the two keywords that I kept in mind when considering the display. Room C consists of five areas: Pleats, Pleats Please, special materials, A-POC (A Piece Of Cloth) and 132 5. Each area spreads into the wide space in different ways of display. For example, in the area of Pleats Please, the latest work of “Ikko Tanaka Issey Miyake” is displayed together with the manufacturing machine, and visitors will be able to see the pleating manufacturing process at scheduled times. There is also a display in which visitors can participate by putting the mini 132 5. clothing on a torso.

What was the creative process behind this concept?

I carefully examined Mr. Miyake’s clothing, images, movies — an enormous amount of materials. We repeated the process of thinking, forming and adjusting. And of course, I asked Mr. Miyake to check things during the process. Even when a concept or a display is determined, there is always a better idea that can come up afterward. We continued adjustments until the very last moment. I have been working on preparing this for nearly three years. It was truly a precious experience, which I feel reflects Mr. Miyake’s craftsmanship.

What do you think is behind the enduring appeal of Miyake’s designs?

The “brilliance of creation.” I feel that Mr. Miyake has been inspiring us by his own works, not simply with words, but with the idea that the most important thing in our lives is making things. And the factor that makes his creations special and unique is his strong desire to make things that create happiness and joy for people.

Mr. Miyake is always thinking ahead. He never stops and settles in the present, he always searches for a better method and will even doubt decisions he’s made only seconds earlier. I do not know anyone like him.

And finally, what words best sum up Mr. Miyake?

“A Piece Of Cloth.” This is equivalent to the 5-7-5 syllabic pattern found in haiku. With these words, infinite creations have been produced.