At the start of my year at the Institut Français de la Mode, we were given a big project called ‘Act of Creation’. Students from different streams were mixed to form groups of 7. We were to research and conclude if the brand allocated to us, had created something revolutionary new or not. We had 4 days to deliver with a presentation, a video and an object that would best represent the ‘act of creation’ by our brand. It was stressful to have this big project in the first week of college but it was also a great ice breaker to meet students from the other course. In the end, our presentation was the best received by the jury.
The following is document of 2500 character that we were required to submit:
“All of my work stems from the simplest of ideas that go back to the earliest civilizations: making clothing from one piece of cloth. It is my touchstone.1” Issey Miyake
With A Piece of Cloth (A-POC), Issey Miyake devised a “seamless garment born from a pre-cut tubular weave2”, creating a brand new process of manufacturing, while providing a sustainable approach to avoid textile waste.
These garments broke all fashion norms of the time by allowing the wearer ultimate freedom – to cut and use as she pleases, to wear as she prefers and to move without inhibitions. A-POC could be constructed or deconstructed in a process where the wearer could also be creator – diametrically opposed to what a couturier does.
Rosalind E. Kraus in her book, The Originality of the Avant Garde and other Modernist Myths3, suggests that creativity is an act of derivation. Indeed, Miyake took an ancient form of dressing using a single fabric such as the Greek toga and conceptualized an idea that was way ahead of its time: A-POC. Technology allowed him to break the previous norms of textile construction, creating a new fabric made from a single thread that could have multiple designs inserted in a single roll that could then be reproduced endlessly.
The idea of A-POC has been the foundation of Issey Miyake’s work, from his exhibition of A Piece of Cloth in 19774, to Pleats Please in the 80s and later on with 132 5., IN:EI lamps and even A-POC denims. We see Miyake’s career as a quest to achieve minimalism and freedom of movement through conceptual thinking and technology. This journey found expression as A-POC in 1998.
“The basis for clothing design lies in a piece of cloth, which no fashion or trend can alter5”, explains Miyake. While Pleats Please was a novel technique to pleating post garment construction, Miyake in his own words states that A-POC was at the core of everything that he has worked on. It is a concept “that goes beyond the craze of a season to fit into a longer creative cycle6”.
However, the idea of A-POC as an “Act of Creation” can be questioned if we consider Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s definition of creativity as “any act, idea, or product that changes an existing domain, or that transforms this existing domain into a new one7”, in his book Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention. Though A-POC did establish a new way of crafting clothes, the idea did not revolutionize the way garments are manufactured in the industry. It can be argued that the worlds of fashion and art did consider the idea radical. Queen, an A-POC piece was the first garment to receive a permanent spot in the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
First launched as a specific collection, the sustainable concept of A-POC has now been fully integrated into all of Miyake’s work and now lies in the brand’s DNA8. He pioneered this approach in the 90s, long before his contemporaries considered the environmental consequences of the industry: A-POC was ahead of its epoch.
As the fashion world searches for effective ways of upcycling, could A-POC be a solution?
We submitted a flipbook that was representative of how A-POC can almost any combination of clothing created. It was a bit tongue-in-cheek as we used the faces of the members of the jury, but thankfully they took it well.
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- Interview by Liza Foreman for the New York Times, Dec 2nd, 2014.
- “Issey Miyake”. Anti-blogue La Mode, Slate.fr. March 7th, 2011.
- Kraus, Rosalind E. The Originality of the Avant Garde and other Modernist Myths. MIT Press: 1986.
- The show took place at the Seibu Museum of Art, Tokyo. More infos on Issey Miyake’s website.
- English, Bonnie. Japanese Fashion Designers: the work and influence of Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawabuko. Berg: 2011. p.14. English, Bonnie. Ibid. p.15.
- Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention. HarperCollins Publishers: 1996. p.26.
- Description of the Issey Miyake Collection online: “the collection is founded in the philosophy of clothing made from « a Piece of Cloth »”.