irving penn and issey miyake: visual dialogue
irving penn and issey miyake: visual dialogue irving penn and issey miyake: visual dialogue
nov 18, 2011

irving penn and issey miyake: visual dialogue

‘irving penn and issey miyake: visual dialogue’ 21_21 design sight exhibition image © designboom 

american photographer irving penn and japanese fashion designer issey miyake had a deep creative understanding of each other’s work.
the result of the cross-cultural collaboration is showcased in ‘irving penn and issey miyake: visual dialogue’,
an exhibit at 21_21 design sight tokyo. 
the artists first met in 1983 while penn was doing an editorial shoot for american vogue featuring miyake’s clothing.
regardless of their cultural differences (or maybe because of it), each found a unique perspective in the other’s work.
the result was a 13 year long collaboration which spanned from 1987 to 1999. miyake saw his designs in a new way through penn’s
photographs. the images communicated the essence of the collection. through the photographer’s lens, the texture,
shapes and forms went beyond clothing and instead transformed into art. to keep an unbiased view, penn never attended
an issey miyake fashion show, while miyake was never present at the photo sittings by penn. their collaboration was based
on complete creative trust. 
‘through his eyes penn-san reinterprets the clothes, gives them new breath, and presents them to me from a new
vantage point — one that I may not have been aware of, but had been subconsciously trying to capture.
without penn-san’s guidance, I probably could not have continued to find new themes with which to challenge myself,
nor could I have arrived at new solutions.’
issey miyake (from irving penn: a career in photography, the art institute of chicago, 1997)

‘issey miyake seaweed dress’ (1987) by irving penn 
image © the irving penn foundation

‘issey miyake staircase dress’ (1994) by irving penn 
image © the irving penn foundation

a large projection features photographs taken by penn of miyake’s designs. from over 250 images, kitamura chose 148 to be included 
in an 18 minute 39 second showing edited by pascal roulin. the 31 meter (101 foot) long projection is edited, not in a chronological order, 
but rather to showcase the impact the artists had on each other’s work. 
along the lobby are 67 posters. the photographs of miyake’s designs taken by penn were composited into posters 
by graphic designer ikko tanaka. they span from spring/summer collection of 1987 through to the autumn/winter collection completed in 1999. 
also presented are some exhibition posters for past installations and shows. opposite the posters are 57 sketches. 
these are the preliminary concepts quickly jotted down by penn prior to the photo sessions. they were completed between 1989 and 1996.  

irving penn’s photographs of issey miyake’s designs being projected onto the screen image © designboom  

still of looped photos during 9th minute  image © designboom  

still of looped photos during 18th minute image © designboom  

their international communication was largely based on midori
kitamura. miyake’s trusted advisor, she helped him with the management 
of the collections. this included the trips to new york twice a
year when she would take images of the clothing to penn and sit in 
on the photo shoots. once the photographs were completed, she would take them back to miyake. 
‘for me, the photo sittings were always filled with surprises. I
was the one who was supposed to be the most familiar with the clothes 
but during the course of the photo sessions, I watched them
transform before mr. penn’s lens. it was an entirely new world for me. 
miyake would then inevitably be surprised and moved by the photos I brought back to him from new york, 
and the perspectives they mirrored would, in some way or another, provide inspiration for the subsequent collection.’ midori kitamura
kitamura is currently the president of miyake design studio as well as the creative director of the exhibit.

   stills of michael crawford’s sketches in an animation by pascal roulin sketches © michael crawford  photographs taken by designboom

outlining the creative relationship between the two artists, a 9 minute 58 second animation was directed by pascal roulin.  it uses 19 original illustrations by cartoonist michael crawford to visually communicate the collaborative process; miyake designs the clothes,  has a fashion show in paris, kitamura’s travels to new york, the photo sitting by penn in new york, and finally, the poster creation.  the original drawings are mounted along the hallway outside the projection room. 

‘irving penn and issey miyake: visual dialogue’ drawings by michael crawford editing by pascal roulin

issey miyake collection poster for spring/summer 1994 photography by irving penn. poster design by ikko tanaka image © the irving penn foundation   

drawings of michael crawford outlining the collaboration of irving penn and issey miyake line the hallway image © designboom

one of the illustrations by michael crawford sketch © michael crawford  photograph taken by designboom

detail of drawings mounted on cardboard sketch © michael crawford  image © designboom

detail of illustration sketch © michael crawford  image © designboom

hallway lined with 67 posters created by ikko tanaka for issey miyake
image © designboom 

posters for collections start at spring/summer 1987 until autumn/winter 1999   image © designboom  

exhibition posters  image © designboom  hallway showing irving penn’s sketches and ikko tanaka ‘s posters   image © designboom

concept sketches by irving penn sketches © the irving penn foundation  photographs taken by designboom

sketches of issey miyake’s clothes by irving penn  sketch © the irving penn foundation  photographs taken by designboom

‘irving penn regards the work of issey miyake’ 
photograph, jacket design and typography by irving penn
image © the irving penn foundation

the exhibit is on now through april 8th, 2012 at tokyo midtown design hub. for more information on the design of the exhibit 

by shigeru ban, read designboom’s article here.

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