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  • Khan Delin

Fashion and Photography: The Photographers Behind Issey Miyake's Iconic Imagery

Article Cover Image featuring Issey Miyake photographed by Irving Penn

Photography has always played an integral role in the triumph of the fashion world, with magazines like Vogue and Harper's Bazaar being just a few of the fashion content hubs. These types of publications featured editorials and advertisements and showed off the latest and greatest designs on some of the most iconic models, with the designs of Japanese designer Issey Miyake being no exception. Miyake's early work started showing up in advertisements and editorials featured in a lot of these fashion publications in the early 1970’s. He's worked with a long roster of extremely talented photographers, each of whom helped him visualize his designs and created some of the most famous posters, advertisements, and editorials.

Guest Artist Series

Nobuyoshi Araki Guest Artist Series #2, 1997

Upon viewing his countless “Guest Artist” Series, it’s clear that Miyake works well with others and prefers it in some way. In the late 90’s, Issey Miyake did Guest Artist series with Japanese photographer Nobuyoshi Araki and painter Yasumasa Morimura, as well as many others. The garments featured were mostly dresses with color image prints of their work laid out on the pleated garments. Beyond these first iconic artist collaborations, Miyake hand picked some of the best photographers and image makers to encapsulate his vision.

Issey Miyake Yasumasa Morimura Guest Artist Series #1, 1997

Yasumasa Morimura Guest Artist Series #1, 1997

East Meets West Book and Images by Noriaki Yokosuka

As a child, Miyake wanted to grow up to become a performance dancer and used to study his older sister’s fashion magazines meticulously. As a designer he was tremendously inspired by dance movements and how clothing reacts and forms as someone is dancing. Many of the images shot for the Miyake Design Studio during the early 70’s were done by Noriaki Yokosuka, the first Japanese photographer to be featured in many foreign versions of Vogue. His photography is the most prominent in the Issey Miyake: East Meets West book, which was the first ever monograph about the living fashion designer.

Issey Miyake East Meet West Cover by Noriaki Yokosuka, 1978

Issey Miyake East Meet West Cover by Noriaki Yokosuka, 1978

Yokosuka worked closely with a dance company in Japan's Sankai-Juku called Butah, which was a valuable addition to the imagery as Miyake often used dancers to pose for photographs wearing some of his early pieces. The images capture the colorful, theatrical designs perfectly and their use of ballerinas as models continued to be his signature look for the clothing. The dancers posed, extending their bodies and limbs in the midst of a dance routine or movement, with the clothing almost floating on their bodies. This relationship with dancers continued in Miyake's future and became a signature look. Noriaki Yokosuka and Issey Miyake worked together for many years shooting photos, but unfortunately Yokosuka passed away in 2003 only after he had destroyed his entire photo archive. leaving his family with a selection of prints and a few rolls of film.

Photos by Noriaki Yokosuka

Traveling With Yuriko Takagi

Another photographer that shot some iconic, less well known images for Issey was a woman by the name of Yuriko Takagi, who first started shooting freelance after graduating college. In the early 1980’s, Takagi talked with Issey Miyake and convinced him to give her a suitcase of clothing for her to photograph all around the world. She spent years traveling to Morocco, Turkey, Kenya, India, and China in some of the most remote places photographing local people wearing Miyake’s wonderful clothing. The resulting images are truly stunning and give us an honest look at what Miyake’s designs would look like all across the world, something that Miyake aspired for with his clothing.

Irving Penn and Issey Miyake

The most famous photographer that worked with Issey Miyake, Irving Penn, first met him in New York City in the 1980’s. At the time Penn was beginning to gain popularity as a fashion photographer and shot for many different types of publications all over the world. The models again posed in an expressive, exaggerated manner that highlighted the details of the garments. The two also created a collaborative photo book 'Issey Miyake: Photographs by Irving Penn' in 1988 that featured text and images from Irving Penn with all clothing from Miyake. The photos were all shot on a clean white backdrop and featured the model Jun Kano, this collaboration remains one of the most notable works for both Miyake and Penn.

Photos of Issey Miyake's Clothing by Irvin Penn, via ARCHIVE.pdf

These collaborations between a number of talented photographers, alongside an up-and-coming designer with a vision, truly shows the importance of the photographer-designer dynamic. Through the images you can see Issey’s deep appreciation and respect for ballet and dance as well as the photographers he selected to create the image of his brand. The use of photography as a tool for marketing has become huge and plays an integral part of the fashion industry. Today it seems almost everyone is a photographer or created their own magazine but I really appreciate this time period of both fashion and photography for its honesty and humbleness.

Writer: Khan Delin


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