True to form, the Issey Miyake Spring/Summer 2021 show was an experimental fashion gallery. Not that anyone would expect less from the technology-driven clothing design of the boundary-pushing Japanese fashion house.
When three models in monochromatic dressing emerged through white doors, we got our first look at the scene: which I can only describe as the world’s chicest warehouse. The setting, an actual warehouse turned gallery, located outside of Tokyo, hints at the concept, inspiration and title for Satoshi Kondo’s third collection since taking the helm as creative/design director of the brand: “UNPACK THE COMPACT.”
“The reason why we picked this space is the warehouse symbolized this idea of storing, packing and shipping things, and it’s really in synergy with the collection,” said Kondo.
The opening models continue past a DJ, further into the space, where pieces from the collection are displayed on the white gallery walls, and on white podiums. Some of the garments are pinned flat, deconstructed, while others hang in compact travel bags, or off the the shoulders of artistic, collapsable, black mannequins, looking more like artwork, than clothing, a line Issey Miyake is used to blurring.
A sense of movement and flexibility is achieved early on, when garments on the wall begin to pulse, as more models come into view, adorning the collection. Models make their way through the gallery in both bold and muted colours, rich florals and clashing prints, many reminiscent of their “Temporary Room” motif, which was inspired by the idea of wearing a piece of painting as it integrated the artwork as a whole into clothing. Some looks are made from cotton and ramie materials, while others from a bonded polyester and cotton fabrics. Again, staying true to the longstanding pillars of the Issey Miyake brand and it’s namesake designer: light, dynamic, easy-to-care-for, and timeless.
Seamless vests in black, white coffee and iceberg make their way down the runway on the models, made by molding fabrics to create a soft-shell. The vests belong to the series within the collection, titled “Form Body”, which explores the relationship between body and clothing. Other garments, like the standout, moss green, packable poncho, are made from technical, water-repellent material, and are inspired by the idea of integrating clothing and a garment bag, aptly titled the “To Go” series. The wearer goes through the cycle of wearing, folding, and carrying away the garment. By folding and fastening the zippers, the coat and poncho each turn into bags like the ones used to store and carry suits.
Mixed into the footage of the models continuing through the gallery, is stop-motion video depicting the construction and deconstruction of many of the collection’s pieces. Against the black backdrop, sapphire tops unravel, just to re-ravel themselves before folding into compact shapes. Blaze orange, spongy knits twist, turn, and roll to the beat of the disjointed, funky techno-track, showcasing the signature Miyake springiness we know, and love.
Like many others, Kondo pulled inspiration for this collection from these unprecedented times we’re facing globally due to the COVID-19 pandemic, where many people are working from home or rely on mail. “As my team and I found ourselves working from home, I started to explore the idea of how a garment can be packed or unpacked,” Kondo told The Associated Press.
Season, after season, Issey Miyake breathes a breath of fresh air into our lungs, and despite recent constraints due to COVID-19, nothing has changed. With so many designers and so many fashion weeks, it can be hard to keep up, and industry voices have long since been commenting on the state of fashion and the industry; it’s excess and over-saturation. Through it’s experimenting with fabrics, textures and fashion technologies, Issey Miyake continues to rise above the over-saturation, and grounds us all in the true essence of fashion design: creativity, innovation, and expression.