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During Milan Design Week this year, Issey Miyake presented “THINKING DESIGN, MAKING DESIGN.” The installation by A-POC ABLE Issey Miyake and the contemporary artist Tatsuo Miyajima featured seven-segment digital number displays that represented time and life, based on three concepts: “it keeps changing,” “it connects with everything,” and “it continues forever.” Guests to the store were encouraged to roll a 10-sided die and hang a numerical segment on the wall according to the number that came up. The exhibition also included the artist’s A-POC capsule collection, “TYPE-II Tatsuo Miyajima,” featuring motifs inspired by his work with LED digital numbers and created with the house’s Steam Stretch technology.
In Milan, Whitewall explored the installation before speaking with the artist and the brand’s designer, Yoshiyuki Miyamae, about how the interactive creations consider the past, the present, and the future of people and the planet.
WHITEWALL: This collection used Miyajima’s numbers as a motif. How were these created using Issey Miyake’s Steam Stretch techniques, yet exploring new possibilities with patterns?
YOSHIYUKI MIYAMAE: The blousons are manufactured according to a program (design) that lays out the blouson pattern lines, Mr. Miyajima’s digital numbers, and the pleated shapes that express them on a piece of fabric in advance. Once that piece of fabric is cut out and fabricated into a garment, it is instantly shrunk by hot steam, transforming it into a garment of unique stretch material. The weaving of the digital numeral artwork into the fabric creates a new look that constantly changes with the body’s movements. Wearing Mr. Miyajima’s artwork gives one the experience of incorporating special art into the most familiar aspects of everyday life.
WW: By asking visitors to roll a ten-sided die and hang segments on the wall, how does this collaboratively suggest the presence of time?
YM: Each day, a visitor throws a die that determines the content of the exhibit of the day. Mr. Miyajima’s signature work is the LED digital counter, but this time he has adapted an analog approach for expressing “time” with digital numbers. Each day, one visitor is asked to roll a 10-sided die and hang pieces that make up the numbers on the wall according to the result of the roll, thereby producing a number that suggests “time.” The result is that day’s completed artwork. The aim is to get people to enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime experience with art.
WW: Can you tell us about how the TYPE-II blouson was sustainably created?
YM: The TYPE-II blouson uses in part thread made from rice husks, more than 100 million tons of which are said to be discarded per year worldwide. To a greater extent than ever before, I feel the weight of designers’ responsibility as to what we make. Environmental problems can be dealt with in various ways, and we, too, are striving to take an approach in our manufacturing that can contribute to a more sustainable environment. To that end, we will continue to work with various partner companies.
WW: Why is it important to collaborate with artists at Issey Miyake?
YM: Artists show us new ways to see things and pursue new aesthetic values. In the field of clothing making as well, artists’ thinking gives us new insights and ideas for our creative processes. I believe it is very important that through working with art our creative processes can be freed from stereotypes. Moreover, our collaborations with artists allow us to explore new possibilities and frontiers. They are just like journeys. I believe that exploring new possibilities and frontiers stimulates our curiosity, which is the driving force of our design and making.
WW: Tatsuo, can you describe the ethos behind making artwork that represents time and life—depicted by numbers zero through nine and the three concepts “it keeps changing,” “it connects with everything,” and “it continues forever”?
TATSUO MIYAJIMA: I was interested in human life. Relating to the Buddhist concept of the eternity of life, I came up with three concepts. Basically, a sense of eternity is born from the continual alternation of life and death. My digital numbers count down from nine to one in light, and they represent “life.” The zero is represented by darkness and means “death.” And my work is about this repetition between life and death.
WW: How did your collection embody that idea, yet offer something new with clothing?
TM: I thought of this collaborative project as “to wear time.” I have long used digital numbers as a means of expression. Recent cognitive science suggested that numbers are a concept invented by human beings that relates to time and space. In other words, numbers equal time. This is why wearing numbers is wearing time.
WW: What do you admire about the house of Issey Miyake?
TM: Mr. Issey Miyake is one of the designers I admire. He designs clothing by the “why,” rather than the “how” and “what.” In other words, his creations answer the “why” behind a clothing form. His design considers things such as why a particular material ought to be used.
WW: How do these pieces reflect your philosophy about life?
TM: The appearance of time (numbers) changes according to the movement of the wearer and the viewing angle, and time itself changes. These very changes are the reality of life. This is what I believe we are achieving by getting human beings to wear time (numbers).