A novel riposte to the stifling heat wave that has gripped Paris was offered
during the Issey Miyake show today. "Cooling bags" from Japan were passed
out. When you punched them hard, a sachet of water was released into
ammonium compounds, which instantly become ice-cold. And so a complex
chemical process produced a gratifying physical result. You couldn't have
wished for a more perfect metaphor for the clothes that followed.
The small print on the show notes indicated that the collection was "directed by Issey Miyake and the Reality Lab," an acknowledgment that implied Issey was back in the driving seat after 18 years away from menswear. He's always been in the background somewhere, so maybe the mention wasn't quite the scoop it seemed. Still, it was easier than usual to see his thumbprint on a collection and show which, from the invitation onwards, were an homage to washi, a Japanese paper that has been used for centuries to make clothes. It's clearly a humble fabric, which fits with the humility of Issey's own ethos over the years, but equally it was elevated by the technological skill of the Miyake studios into something scarcely recognizable as paper. In sporty outerwear or sharp tailoring, treated to be water-repellent, twisted to make yarn that was woven into canvas, or knitted into ikat-dyed pieces, washi proved itself startlingly versatile.
You felt like you were seeing a creative solution to a problem you hadn't quite nailed down yet (something to do with the husbanding of natural resources, perhaps, but only time can clarify that). Still, there was also the quiet charm, craft, and common sense that this house delivers season after season. A final group of sculptural pieces made no pretense other than to celebrate the plain style and substance of washi . In their own way, they were homespun art. Of course, Issey himself would have had no time for such a notion.