August 18 2011
Mark C O’Flaherty
I’ve been buying Issey Miyake clothing for three decades now. I remember when I was in my twenties, contemplating the purchase of a Miyake scarf, entranced by how light and unusual its texture was, as if it had been grown, rather than woven. It was black, there was a slight fringing on it and it was, as is customary, displayed on a shelf tied into a knot. I was convinced that it would add an intellectual slant to the simplest of outfits. It was also – as Miyake’s work has always been – breathtakingly expensive, and after a bout of great temptation, I shied away from it.
Years later I visited a Miyake sample sale and was delighted to find an almost identical scarf on sale. I bought it, wore it constantly for a month and then promptly lost it by putting it over the back of a chair at a restaurant in New York and leaving without it. Recently I replaced that Miyake scarf with a new one, a £500 blend of silk and cashmere, lighter than air and sewn, if viewed as a cross-section, into a triangular shape of three panels. Again, I can’t imagine being without it, irrespective of season. It transforms a simple pair of Uniqlo jeans and a T-shirt into something quite special.
Miyake is the great colourist of Japanese fashion and has always offered so much more than just black; so this season there are scarves with check patterns in monochrome; scarves in blue, or in purple with orange (£230); while others have a centre panel of check with two contrasting colours (left in picture, £330). The most classically Miyake in the range is a wool- and silk-mix Shrink Stripe Stole (centre in picture, £350), which has subtle stripes with a slightly ruched, shrunken appearance. (Also pictured: Shrink Crepe Stole, right.) But for me it’s the plain black scarf that’s still the one. And whatever the colour or pattern, it’s the Miyake studio’s unique way with textiles that sets these accessories apart.