What happens to a fashion house after its founder dies? If you’re Issey Miyake and Off White, two labels made parentless in the past 12 months, you carry on making collections in their name while peering through the sartorial looking-glass as you figure out what to do next.
Closing was never an option for Issey Miyake. The first Japanese designer to crack Paris fashion week, Miyake’s name was already a byword for cutting-edge style and Steve Jobs polo necks when he died in August aged 84. Miyake had not designed at his label since 2020 (Satoshi Kondo is the current creative director) but his fingerprints have always been all over the label’s collections.
Unveiled in an events centre in the périphérique of the 19th arrondissement, the spring show opened with the moving sound of songbirds, the first bars of John Lennon’s Imagine and a black and white photograph of Miyake projected around the room. The rest of show was soundtracked by a Yamaha piano placed in the centre of the hall.
The collection was a zippy run through Miyake’s most famous, fluid inventions – including weightless creaseproof pleats in recycled polyester and clothes made from a single piece of cloth – repurposed for 2023 with colour and vim, and ended with an emotional dance sequence performed by models and dancers.
White Grecian dresses and minis were paired with clutches and modern bustiers. Then came the colours – full gowns in lilac and blue made from seamless knits, which bounced as the wearer walked. Partially folded blazers and egg-shaped minidresses made from his recycled polyester came next. Standing still, the models resembled statues. Once they moved, the clothes fittingly sprung to life.
Off White is a label centred around hype – the scrums outside its Paris shows were notorious at fashion week. Suitably 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 were not enough seats so guests had to double up.
Taking place the day before what would have been Abloh’s 42nd birthday, the show was a reminder of how young he was when he died and how much he still wanted to do.
Talking about the future, Ibrahim Kamara, Off White’s image and art director, said “progress is in process” though there are reports 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. “It had to ultimately come back to celebrating him.”
The clothes took Abloh’s most recognisable pieces – leather dresses, oversized tailoring and workwear in red white and black – and left them unfinished. Threads trailed off jackets, collars rose up to half-cover the models’ faces and blazers came with large holes around the torso.
Abloh routinely used his catwalk as a soapbox for the greater cause, which is partly why the brand had such reach. This season, Abloh and Kamara worked with the visual artist Jenny Holzer to raise awareness of the recent overturning of Roe v Wade in the US.
“Coincidentally, this mood has fallen … just as anti-abortion laws are being reinstated in real time across America,” said Kamara. “Today, we seek her voice as the overturning of Roe v Wade signals yet another setback.”
The brand will sell a Holzer-designed T-shirt emblazoned with a play on her 1986 artwork Truisms, incorporating the phrase “Abuse of power comes as no surprise” with proceeds going to Planned Parenthood. Were Abloh alive, he would have done the same.