From 1996 to 1998, garments from Issey Miyake's Pleats Please Guest Artist Series showcased the work of selected contemporary artists. Using the one-size-fits all, permanently pleated polyester garments as a canvas, artists Yasumasa Morimura, Nobuyoshi Araki, Tim Hawkinson, and Cai Guo Qiang created prints specifically for Pleats Please. The first collaboration, Guest Artist Series No. 1, highlighted the work of artist Yasumasa Morimura.
Born in 1951 in Osaka, Japan, Morimura's art is based on an egocentric reimagining of iconic paintings and photographs from art history and celebrity culture. Morimura hijacks these images, usually inserting a carefully costumed version of himself in place of the central figure. Using both and high and low technologies, Morimura has envisioned himself as Frida Kahlo, Van Gogh's sunflowers, Marilyn Monroe, Marlene Dietrich, Albert Einstein, Che Guevara, and Judith holding the head of Holofernes. For his collaboration with Issey Miyake, Morimura placed himself within the neoclassical world of Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres' 1856 painting, La Source. Instead of replacing the central figure with his own image, Morimura twined an inverted image of himself wrapped in red mesh around the painting's subject, a statuesque nude. The final print is a complicated layering of art historical and contemporary imagery that touches on a variety of constructs: male and female, east and west, clothed and nude.
When worn, the collaboration between Miyake and Morimura extends to the wearer, resulting in a three-way collaboration that fully animates the garment. Each participant contributes to the final product: Miyake created the foundation, Morimura the design, and the wearer contributes an animating body. To Miyake, the wearer is an essential participant in the design process: "When I make something, it's only half finished. When people use it–for years and years–then it is finished."1
According to Miyake, the Guest Artist collaboration wasn't a response to the question, "Is fashion art?" Despite his thoughtful approach to design, Miyake stubbornly resists calling himself an artist. For Miyake, the division between art and clothing is the difference between something that is hung on a wall for viewing and the active life of a frequently worn garment. The Guest Artist Series was an attempt to bridge that gap, encouraging what Miyake called an "interactive relationship between art and the person who admires it."2 Rather than simply enjoying an artwork from afar, the wearer of a Guest Artist Series Pleats Please garment embarks on an intimate relationship with a garment that considers the intersections of fashion and art.
1 Thomas, Dana. "Gunpowder and Fashion." Newsweek 17 Jan 1999: 57.
2 Brubach, Holly. "But Is It Art?" The New York Times 17 Nov. 1996: SM67