Issey Miyake Was Right There All Along

Murray Clark
·4-min read
Photo credit: Issey Miyake
Photo credit: Issey Miyake

From Esquire

'Newness' is a term well-worn with fashiony types. Designers must be pretty worn out by it, too. For with each passing season, the circus demands something new of its headliners, something fresh, something they haven't seen before. Which, granted, is a very big ask when some creative directors are burdened with six or seven collections a year. Then the shows stopped. Brands were suddenly forced to juggle newness with a new shopper that was under indefinite house arrest. And as if the tightrope couldn't get any slimmer, there's always the cursed charge of 'losing oneself': an albatross bestowed, sometimes unfairly, upon designers that take too far a step from the stuff that oooh'd and aaah'd the chattering classes in the first place. So something new, several times a year, but not too new, and still relevant to a world that's suffering an ongoing, unprecedented pandemic. Sure. Got it.

But this cruel creative brief isn't a blanket one. It does apply to most brands. But some have outmanoeuvred the jet-engined carousel to do fashion and 'newness' on their own terms. Issey Miyake's Homme Plissé offshoot line is but one of these. First launched in 2013 after decades of the eponymous designer's research and reverence of pleating techniques, it was to be polished, easy-to-wear ready-to-wear with minimalism at its core. Each piece is lightweight, comfortable and crease-averse, with silhouettes loose, languid but never baggy. This move was at once simple but signature. Pleating, arguably, became Issey Miyake's Thing, and the designer felt little need to alter it and was faced with no calls to do so. The Homme Plissé A/W '21 is, by and large, the same Homme Plissé we've always seen – and that's just what menswear needs, now more than ever.

The film, which premiered just this morning, opens with a lonely pleating machine in a dusty, sombre workshop. It hums into life. Slowly, its clank and churn and pumping valves harmonise to provide the collection with its tribal-like soundtrack, models appearing into view. Cloaked in black and white trousers, jackets and crisp shirts, they weave in and out of each other on the back of marching, dour-faced men. The process and hum momentarily stops and the models freeze, only to then continue milling around one another in the same four walls in the same old bunker. What seemed to be a change of pace was only a fleeting distraction; Homme Plissé, like us, listening out for something, anything, before realising it's back into the flow of the new abnormal.

But soon enough, sunlight pours into the once dusty, forgotten workroom. Models inhabit a lighter, brighter space too. Aimless walking curves into dancing. Pops of colour are folded into the monochrome. Some people are even smiling! But, despite the pops of maroon and cerulean blue and cream, and the symbolic opening of some curtains (pleated, presumably), it's still the same Homme Plissé: same butter-soft shapes, hanging loosely but purposefully from shoulders in the same wearable jackets, trousers and the odd Mandarin-collared shirt. Because the designer's no-fuss, low key luxury take on comfort seems to meet this current moment. We want to dress without thinking too much; we want to hold onto our past pride and style as much as possible, but without sacrificing the comfort blanket of sweats and PJs that are so crucial right now; we want stuff that makes us feel better and stylish all at once ('sadwear', if you will, being an ever-swelling movement Esquire knows all too well). But Homme Plissé met the past moment, and the one before that, and it'll no doubt be the uniform of choice for so many when we do actually see the light again. While fashion's lean into lockdown dress gave menswearheads ample choice to recalibrate their wardrobes, the most obvious (and, arguably, the best) solution was hanging right there all along.

Issey Miyake is an exception, not the rule. Few brands could offer a line that is so universally liked nor so universally applied. But Homme Plissé belongs to an enclave of designers that are revered by proper, ardent, StockX miners, Issey Miyake's Homme Plissé such a grail piece that its very long name frequently takes up precious real estate in the YouTube headlines of unboxers and collectors alike. It's a no-brainer. The collection holds much click currency.

All of that fanfare, without offering any 'newness', per se – and the criticerati are absolutely fine with it. So is Miyake. Throughout the film, its title, and that of the collection at large, flashes across the screen intermittently, the clean, crisp typeface a worthy companion to the similar clothes behind: "never change, ever change."

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