Style & Design

Finding time in Tokujin Yoshioka's design

by Danielle Demetriou

Contributing Writer

Raw-edged concrete walls, angular black railings and jewel-bright clothing. The interior of the first flagship store for Homme Plisse Issey Miyake is not only minimal and contemporary, it also has one particularly unusual highlight in the corner: a large silvery gray machine devoted to creating the pleated textiles synonymous with one of Japan’s most iconic designers.

The rare presence of a pleating machine steals the show at Homme Plisse Issey Miyake /Aoyama, which opened its doors earlier this month in the Minamiaoyama district of Tokyo.

Designed by Tokujin Yoshioka — who has collaborated with Miyake countless times over the past 30 years — the store is a careful balance of the airy and the industrial. Housed in a 1970s building, it covers an expansive 225 square-meter space, showcasing curated collections of Homme Plisse clothing.

It also offers an unusually intimate insight into the creative process of pleating. A limited-edition Color collection of T-shirts in 10 shades is on sale — pleated on-site by official Issey Miyake pleating engineers, dressed for the occasion in sleek uniforms of Homme Plisse jumpsuits and caps (visitors can watch them working with the machine through walls of glass).

The only other occasion that a pleating machine has been on public display was during a 2016 exhibition devoted to the work of Issey Miyake at The National Art Center, Tokyo.

Here, Tokujin shares insight into the creative inspiration behind the new store, from its gravity-defying clothing rails to the scene-stealing pleating machine.

What inspired the design of the Homme Plisse Issey Miyake/Aoyama store?

The internet has changed our lifestyle. We have come to an era where retail stores have to find a new way of being. In my opinion, interior design has to offer new experiences and create (a sense of) time itself. In Homme Plisse Issey Miyake/Aoyama, you can watch the process of the pleats being created in the workshop where the pleating machine sits.

What kind of atmosphere were you hoping to evoke in this space?

In order to design a sense of time, I wanted to create a space that shows a documentary-like scene, where a piece of clothing is created. I didn’t follow the concept of current interior design, where everything is made to perfection.

Can you tell us about the materials used?

Fixtures are made of steel. I kept the raw concrete walls visible to bring out the expression the building has gained from its history.

What inspired your choice of angular, clean-lined matte black clothing rails?

These clothing rails are also my design. They are designed to appear as if they are free from gravity. I chose this for the shop fixtures to express the lightness and airiness of the pleats.

And the pleating machine? What was the reason behind the decision to place this in the shop?

Through my 30 years of collaboration with Issey Miyake, I have learned that the appeal of the brand is in the creation process of the clothing. There exists the spirit. I wished to share this excitement with everyone in this new shop.

Did you change the machine for the store?

The original color of the machine was greenish gray. I painted it in dark gray to keep the simple look of the fixtures.

The machine is housed in a special corner space encased in glass — can you explain a little more about this area?

To one side of the pleating machine, I displayed a symbolic “painting” of the pleats production process on the wall. It’s clothing sandwiched between two sheets of paper and pleated.

Can you recall the first time you ever saw something designed by Issey Miyake and the impact it had on you?

A fashion show I saw in my teenage years was my first time seeing Issey Miyake products. I saw the possibility of design in the collection.

This your 17th Issey Miyake standalone store design, and you have collaborated with Issey Miyake for decades on many creative projects, from product design to retail spaces. How similar or different are the shops and spaces?

I think I’ve designed Issey Miyake shops more than a hundred times. The world has changed with the growth of the internet. If the process of purchasing changes, then the selling changes, and this influences the whole concept of the space. I think the similarities Issey Miyake shops share are that they are all simple, and at the same time offer a new value or point of view.

Can you share any insights into how the creative process works while working with Issey Miyake himself on these projects?

Issey-san always tells me to create a shop that brings excitement to everyone. We always visit the site together and I develop the design from our talks. He leaves the design to my choice, so it’s not like he is always coming in to check, but he sees the design at its completion. When he came to see Homme Plisse Issey Miyake/Aoyama, he commented that he liked how we kept the raw concrete wall.