Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Issey Miyake is a clean palette in fashion's hyper trend-driven world. His designs are calming in such an organic way, without reaching for their end result. It's as if calm is their natural state. If they aren't light and transparent as the atmosphere, his sculpted garments appear to have protective, cocoonlike qualities.
In a poignant Op-Ed piece recently published in The New York Times, Miyake shed some light on why his clothing is the way it is. In his piece he speaks openly and honestly for the first time in a public forum about being a witness to, and survivor of, the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima by The United States in 1945. As a boy of seven that day Miyake saw things "no one should ever experience: a bright red light, the black cloud soon after, people running in every direction trying desperately to escape". He sees them still--every time he closes his eyes. He lost his mother to the blast. Her health failed within three years of the bomb.
Miyake attributes his reluctance to share his Hiroshima experience before now largely to his life long desire to focus on the beautiful things that are possible through creativity, rather than the things that were so devastatingly destroyed right before his eyes. His clothing is his salvation, his healing and his way to prove that beauty and peace can outlast, or rather act as a salve for the scars of so much indigestible violence. Sometimes design (especially in the realm of fashion) is perceived as something other than art, something less than. But, when seen as an expression of someone's healing, or their communication of such a humane state as serenity, it is remarkable in its ability to express ideas that go well beyond form and function.
Miyake's formula for healing unimaginable hurt has brought decades of beauty to store shelves and closets and the backs of people attending special events. That may seem trite to some, but to me it is a bold example of the transformative quality of pretty things. Next time you doubt the place of beauty (be it fashion, sculpture, painting, etc.) in today's financially strapped, bare bones, material world, think of how you feel when you see something visually pleasing. Do you feel like destroying? Or, do you feel like creating? It always makes me want to breathe deeper, to be more present, more thankful. Maybe that's just me? Hope not.
Miyake's Op-Ed piece was written with the hopes of enticing President Obama to participate in Japan's observance of Universal Peace Day so that he can take a step "toward creating a world that knows no fear of nuclear threat." While I think it will take a lot more than a ceremonial photo op of Obama crossing a peace bridge to bring actual peace, who knows? Sometimes pleasing visuals have a transformative quality.
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