How Khadi ushered Issey Miyake’s idea of constructivism, minimalism and originality

For Issey, Khadi was a philosophy that he wanted to revive for the contemporary audience. 

author_img Priyamvada Rana Published :  10th August 2022 11:54 PM   |   Published :   |  10th August 2022 11:54 PM
Photo courtesy: isseymiyake.com

Photo courtesy: isseymiyake.com

Late Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake was just seven when the destruction of Hiroshima unfolded in front of his eyes in the August of 1945. A nuclear bomb was dropped on his town in Hiroshima leading to the fatal death of his mother due to radiation exposure. The loss was irrevocable, the pain deeply personal. However, it was possibly this life-altering experience at a very young age that birthed a sense of hope in him to create things that bring joy, and beauty and emphasise the triumph of constructivism over destruction. 

Photo courtesy: isseymiyake.com

Also view the web story: RIP Issey Miyake: A life in pictures...

This philosophy of constructive creation defined his momentous career as an avant-garde designer who broke the barriers between East and West in fashion space, paid homage to indigenous crafts and textiles like Khadi from India, and developed tech-driven clothing and innovative pleating methods that won him immense praise and recognition. In all his endeavours, he focussed on exploring the limitless possibilities of clothing -- one where the body and fabric interact in a comfortable disposition and design is not just for philosophy, "but for life". In a way, he was hinting at discovering utility, originality and purity in design with constructivism. 

Photo courtesy: isseymiyake.com

In 1971, Issey became the first designer who opened the doors for Japanese fashion to the Western world with his fashion show in New York and later at the Paris Fashion Week in 1973. From that, there was no looking back. With each international fashion show, he infused the vivacity of youth with the timeless feel of the past hence making his creations appeal to both young and old. His funky, functional, easy-to-carry and classy origami-like designs on pleated skirts, dresses and shirts became his signature. It introduced the fashionably convoluted and elitist Western world to the East’s simplicity, nature-friendly silhouettes and handcrafted workmanship.

Also read: An ode to the 'Prince of Pleats' Issey Miyake


As the world was learning about Issey’s oriental design ethos, they also got to know about India’s homegrown textile- Khadi. Issey’s efforts made sure that the world knows about this textile beyond its tag 'India’s fabric of freedom'. For him, Khadi represented the myriad emotions of the Indians associated with pride, self-reliance, identity, employment, life, death and creativity. At the same time, he was impressed with the textile's tactility, functionality, purity and minimalism. To sum up, Khadi was a philosophy for him that he wanted to revive for the contemporary audience. 

Also read: Legendary, Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake dies of cancer at 84

The thought materialised with his close association with late cultural revivalist Martand Singh who advocated the humble fabric. Issey’s continuous collaborative works with Martand since the 1980’s produced a series of clothes referred to as a dialogue with Indian culture. This dialogue entered its most popular display at a 2019 exhibition at the Tribeca store in New York under the title Khadi: Indian Craftsmanship. The exhibit presented clothing, accessories and elaborate prints made of the Indian fabric but in a larger scheme of things, it converged the West and the East over a design philosophy that had its root in ancient India.

Photo courtesy: isseymiyake.com

This show, along with various travel expeditions that Issey had in India shaped his idea of constructivism- one where clothes and products are created from original handcrafted materials with a single thread that transcends generations. This is why, even after his demise, his legacy of constructivism continues with threads of Khadi consciously handspun one after another as a subtle reminder of a connoisseur's endeavours. 

Mail: priyamvada@newindianexpress
Twitter: @ranapriyamvada

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