By YURI KAGEYAMA – Associated Press

TOKYO (AP) — Issei Miyake, who created one of Japan’s biggest fashion brands and was known for his bold sculptural pleated pieces as well as the black turtlenecks of former Apple CEO Steve Jobs, has died. He was 84.

Miyake died last Friday of liver cancer, the Miyake Design Bureau said Tuesday.

Miyake defined an era in modern Japanese history, rising to fame in the 1970s among a generation of designers and artists who rose to global prominence by defining a Japanese vision unique to the West.

Miyake’s origami-like folds transformed the normally rough polyester into a luxurious one. He also used computer technology in weaving to create clothes. His down-to-earth clothing was meant to honor the human body regardless of race, build, size or age.

Miyake even hated being called a fashion designer and chose not to identify with what he saw as frivolous, trend-watching, conspicuous consumption.

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Time and again, Miyake returned to his basic concept, starting with a single piece of fabric – be it a drape, fold, cut or wrapped fabric.

Over the years, he has drawn inspiration from various cultures and social motifs, as well as from everyday objects such as plastic, rattan, washi paper, jute, horsehair, foil, yarn, batik, indigo dyes and wire.

At times he evoked images of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin or collaborated with Japanese artist Tadanori Yoku on images of monkeys and foliage in bright psychedelic hues.

He has also collaborated with furniture and interior designer Shiro Kuramata, photographer Irving Penn, choreographer and director Maurice Béjart, ceramic artist Lucy Rhee and Ballet Frankfurt.

In 1992, Miyake was commissioned to design the official Olympic uniform for Lithuania, which had just gained independence from the Soviet Union.

Miyake, who was born in Hiroshima in 1938, became a star as soon as he hit the European catwalks. His brown top, which combined Japanese sewn ‘sashiko’ fabric with raw silk knit, was featured on the September 1973 cover of Elle magazine.

Miyake also pioneered gender roles, asking feminist Fusae Ichikawa in the 1970s, when she was in her 80s, to be his model, sending the message that clothes should be comfortable and reflect the natural beauty of real people.

Although he made clothes that transcended the mundane, he seemed to aim for the spiritual, he never became pretentious, always endorsing the t-shirt and jeans look.

“Design is like a living organism in that it strives for what is important for its well-being and continuity,” Miyake once wrote in his book.

His office confirmed that a private funeral has already taken place and no other ceremonies will be held in accordance with Miyake’s wishes. Miyake kept his family life private, and it is unknown who survived.

Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter at

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