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PARIS — Issey Miyake, the Japanese innovator behind Pleats Please and A-POC (“A Piece of Cloth”), has again pushed the boundaries of fashion design with a new concept based on three-dimensional origami.

This story first appeared in the September 7, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The line, cryptically dubbed 132 5., is based on patterns generated using a software program developed by computer scientist Jun Mitani which creates 3-D shapes from a single, flat sheet of paper.

The resulting clothes, rendered in a recycled polyester fabric, fold flat into striking geometric shapes that are overlaid with sheets of colored tinfoil, producing abstract patterns once they are worn on the body.


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Miyake developed the project as part of his studies into new production processes with the Reality Lab., a research and development team within the Miyake Design Studio that was formed in 2007 and now has eight members.

The 72-year-old designer, who appears a good decade younger, said he relished the opportunity to work on projects outside of the frantic six-month cycle of the fashion industry since relinquishing day-to-day design duties for his label in 1999.

“I felt like I ran enough. It was like a marathon, and I went to the finishing line,” Miyake said in an interview at the Galerie Kreo in Paris, where he was showcasing the new designs. “I wanted to work more in a laboratory.”

One of his principal concerns is developing fabrics that do not rely on fossil fuels — in this case, working with textile manufacturer Teijin Ltd. on a material produced by chemically recycling polyester fibers using a process that, compared with making new polyester materials from petroleum, claims to reduce energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions by around 80 percent.

“There is a change in the system of making things,” he said. “We have to be more concerned about not producing any waste.”

Equally urgent, in his view, was restoring the links behind younger designers, frequently walled behind their computers, and Japan’s dwindling pool of fabric production plants. To that end, Miyake and his team have spent the last three years crisscrossing the country to meet manufacturers in a bid to save local know-how.

“I am very saddened to see Japan in its last gasps in terms of economics, and unfortunately I can’t expect much from the government of Japan,” he said, noting that entire swathes of traditional manufacturing are barely surviving. “We have to start working with them again now.”

The 132 5. line is due to go on sale in a dedicated store in Tokyo’s Aoyama district designed by architect Sou Fujimoto and due to open in November. The line, which consists of variations on 10 basic patterns, will also be available in Miyake’s flagships in New York, London and Paris this fall.

Miyake said production would be limited, since each item is hand-ironed in its own factory, and the line would be priced slightly above Pleats Please. However, he stressed it was important the project resonate with consumers.

“This is a laboratory, but it doesn’t make any sense unless it becomes a reality. If we cannot sell, then we have produced more waste,” he explained. “We are very serious about working out the right price, an acceptable price, and good quality. I think these are the most important factors for a design to be acceptable socially.”

He hopes to eventually extend the use of some of the plainer recycled polyester fabrics his team has developed to uniforms, home furnishings or sewing patterns. Meanwhile, the Reality Lab. team has used the project’s 3-D technology to develop a line of paper lamps dubbed IN-EI, which could go into mass production.

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