The Intergenerational Appeal of Issey Miyake’s Pleats Please

The Japanese label is releasing a capsule collection on the 30th anniversary of Pleats Please, whose comfortable, fluid fabrics have endured as a go-to for the style-driven fashion cognoscenti while also attracting Gen Z-ers seeking luxe loungewear.

Pieces from the fall 1999 collection. Photography by Francis Giacobetti

In 1988, Issey Miyake’s career reached a zenith. The barrier-breaking couturier was one of the first Japanese designers to show in Paris, shortly after launching the Miyake Design Studio in 1970 following stints working for Hubert de Givenchy and Guy Laroche. Unmoved by his rapid rise to fame, Miyake remained steadfast that clothing was a form of art—an unmistakably avant-garde perspective for the ‘80s, but one that landed his designs on a 1982 cover of Artforum and earned his eponymous house consistent praise. After the Musée des Arts Decoratifs staged a retrospective of his prodigious ready-to-wear in 1988, he believed he accomplished everything he could.

That was until he stumbled upon a folded scarf in his studio. His longtime textile designer, Makiko Minagawa, heat-pleated the cloth as an experiment with new materials. Miyake was captivated by its intricate, three-dimensional texture and sought to recreate a comfortable, breathable, and easily movable textile, jumpstarting four years of research that culminated in what would become his label’s signature technique. Polyester fabric is cut and sewn at three times its intended size and heat-pleated, creating accordion folds that retain their shape and resist wrinkles even after being tossed in the washing machine or scrunched up in a suitcase. 

Pleats Please 30th anniversary capsule. Image courtesy of Issey Miyake

To test the fabric, Miyake designed costumes equipped with tricot folds for a performance of William Forsythe’s Frankfurt Ballet in 1991. His experiments were a success—the fluidity of the fabric complemented the dancers’ movement and even inspired Miyake to incorporate choreography in his runway shows. Two years later, Pleats Please hit the market and quickly became a hit among the fashion cognoscenti seeking stylish yet unfussy garments. Zaha Hadid was a fan; Suzy Menkes wore the pieces front row.

As Pleats Please gears up to celebrate its 30th anniversary this month, the label has earned a dedicated following among Millennials and Gen Z-ers who sought out comfortable, well-made loungewear during the pandemic. Searches for the brand skyrocketed 457 percent on the popular resale site Depop from early 2020 until Miyake’s death in August. The label plans to release a capsule collection of separates in both chic monochrome and vivid, abstract prints of clashing colors on May 4. Nodding to the label’s origins, the capsule campaign features models pirouetting through a series of garments, creating a de facto symphony with fluid ease—because Pleats Please always looks best in motion. 

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