What happens to a fashion house after its founder dies? If you’re Issey Miyake and Off White, two brands left without parents in the last 12 months, you continue to make collections in their name while looking through the tailoring looking glass to decide what to do next.
Closing down was never an option for Issey Miyake. The name of Miyake, the first Japanese designer to make it big at Paris fashion week, was already synonymous with avant-garde style and Steve Jobs polo shirts when he died in August at age 84. Miyake had not designed at his brand since 2020 (Satoshi Kondo is the current creative). director) but his fingerprints have always been all over the label’s collections.
Hosted in an event center on the fringes of the 19th arrondissement, the spring show opened with the soulful sound of songbirds, the opening bars of John Lennon’s Imagine and a black-and-white photograph of Miyake projected around the room. The rest of the show was provided with sound by a Yamaha piano placed in the center of the room.
The collection was a quick tour of Miyake’s most famous and fluid inventions, including weightless, wrinkle-proof folds in recycled polyester and clothing made from a single piece of fabric, reimagined for 2023 with color and energy, ending with a sequence of emotional dance performed by models and dancers
White Grecian minis and dresses were teamed with modern clutches and bustiers. Then came the colors: flowing dresses in lilac and blue made of seamless fabrics that bounced as you walked. Partially folded blazers and egg-shaped minidresses made from his recycled polyester followed. Standing, the models looked like statues. Once they moved, the clothes appropriately came to life.
Off White is a brand focused on exaggeration: scrums outside its Paris shows were notorious at fashion week. Fittingly for the first show started but not finished by Virgil Abloh (the designer/creator/everyman died last November), queues snaked down the street, the show started late, and there weren’t enough seats, so guests had to double.
The show, which took place the day before Abloh’s 42nd birthday would have been, was a reminder of how young he was when he died and how much he still wanted to do.
Speaking about the future, Ibrahim Kamara, Off White’s image and art director, said “progress is in the works,” though there are reports that the brand will be continued by a collective of designers.
Virgil had already started working on this collection, so we moved parts and changed a few things here and there with his intentions in mind,” he said. “Ultimately, I had to celebrate it again.”
The clothing took Abloh’s most recognizable pieces—leather dresses, oversized tailoring, and red, white, and black workwear—and left them unfinished. Threads fell from jackets, collars rose to cover half of the models’ faces, and blazers came with large holes around the torso.
Abloh routinely used his runway as a grandstand for the greater cause, which is partly why the brand had such reach. This season, Abloh and Kamara worked with visual artist Jenny Holzer to raise awareness of the recent repeal of Roe v Wade in the US.
“Coincidentally, this mood has subsided… just as anti-abortion laws are reinstated in real time across the United States,” Kamara said. “Today, we seek your voice as the reversal of Roe v Wade signals another setback.”
The brand will sell a Holzer-designed T-shirt emblazoned with a set of his 1986 Truisms artwork, which will incorporate the phrase “Abuse of power is no surprise” with proceeds going to Planned Parenthood. If Abloh were alive, he would have done the same.