Ikko Tanaka Collaboration with Issey Miyake

A bit off the beaten path of design printed on paper comes the collaboration between Ikko Tanaka and Issey Miyake, entitled “East Meets West”. This project is one of the most important to highlight because it is one of the few projects that continues to be produced after Tanaka’s death in 2002.

Ikko Tanaka Issey Miyake – East Meets West – https://www.isseymiyake.com/ikkotanaka/en/archive.html

Issey Miyake is a Japanese fashion designer who studied graphic design around the same time that Ikko Tanaka began his work in the design world. Miyake graduated from the Tama Art University in Tokyo, and went on to work in Paris and New York City. In 1970, he returned to Tokyo, and founded the Miyake Design Studio, only seven years ofter Tanaka started his own design studio. Much of Miyake’s work in fashion has been driven by innovations in design and technology, always exemplifying an über-progressive idea of what Japanese design could look like.

The first collaboration came to fruition in 1978 in the form of a clothing collection. The two designers clearly had a similar eye for abstraction and playfulness in their approach to their individual fields, so the first garments felt almost entirely natural, as if Tanaka had been designing for clothes the whole time. One could say that their similar love for hard shapes, color blocking, and geometry of the face and body simply play well together.

Nihon Buyo-inspired garment by Issey Miyake – https://www.isseymiyake.com/ikkotanaka/en/image.html

In the photo seen above, the iconic Nihon Buyo poster becomes a draping poncho-like garment. What appears to be boxy and shapeless actually cuts an elegant shape on the wearer. The white space above the face of the geisha character perfectly frames the shoulders, while the black shapes that form the hair around the face of the geisha create a slimming effect around the wearer’s sides. 

Ikko Tanaka poster-inspired dress by Issey Miyake – https://www.isseymiyake.com/ikkotanaka/en/image.html

This next piece, from a more recent collection by Issey Miyake, still features a boxy cutout-shape and geometry that features a face, but in a much different form. Rather than displaying a flat figure, this dress relies on the angle and movement of the wearer’s body to display the appearance of an eye (the blue stripe across the chest), a nose (the gray stripe across the mid-section), and the lips (the pink stripe near the waist). When viewed from another angle, it’s easy to see how the piece could simply be an avant-garde dress inspired by color-blocking, but when viewed perfectly, it reveals an entirely new layer of artistry.

Issey Miyake / Ikko Tanaka – Pleats Please! https://www.isseymiyake.com/ikkotanaka/en/image.html

The most recent collection, entitled “Pleats Please!”, shifts focuses from the rigid geometry and faces of Tanaka’s work to his more whimsical use of color, lines, typography and shape. These pieces are definitely meant to be seen in movement, as to highlight the broad strokes of color and rippling lines emblazoned across the garments. A clear inspiration via sportswear, as indicated by the choice of nylon material and baseball hats, also suggests movement and action.

Issey Miyake posters by Ikko Tanaka – http://www.design-is-fine.org/post/140407257989/ikko-tanaka-poster-artwork-for-issey-miyake

Coming full circle, the collaboration between designers did not spurn Tanaka’s primary focus as a designer – print. For years, he designed at least a handful of posters for each new Issey Miyake collection, regardless of whether it was inspired by his own work or not. Here, Tanaka uses textiles and accessories from Issey Miyake’s collections to create new compositions similar to his own geometric works. The shapes composed of the fashion objects are somewhat rigid and limiting, and yet find a harmony amongst each other inside box-like grid structure. The posters act almost as a response to the garments Miyake created with Tanaka’s graphics, and are an absolute example of how their eyes for aesthetics align.


Other resources:

AP Art Publications

Graphic design to wear: Ikko Tanaka among the folds of Issey Miyake – Domus