Perspectives vol.12
A second conversation with Yoshiyuki Miyamae

How Triporous spun together a compelling collaboration

The Perspectives series follows Sony designers into a wide range of fields,
where they glean new insights from experts and experienced veterans with diverse ways of thinking.

Vol. 9 of the Perspectives series featured a captivating conversation
between Sony communication designer Takayuki Kitahara and A-POC ABLE ISSEY MIYAKE designer Yoshiyuki Miyamae
in Tomigaya, Tokyo, where ISSEY MIYAKE INC. has its head office.
It was an encounter that eventually sparked a new collaboration: when Miyamae launched
the new A-POC ABLE ISSEY MIYAKE brand, he decided to make Sony’s Triporous
one of his materials of choice.

For this edition of the Perspectives series, Kitahara headed back to Tomigaya to talk with Miyamae about
what the new brand is, why it uses Triporous, and where he wants it to go.
Read on for a story that unfolded out of a chance—but seemingly inevitable—encounter.

The beginning:
A 2019 entry in the Perspectives series

Yoshiyuki MiyamaeI was just looking back at my calendar and saw that we first met about two years ago, right after I’d stepped down after eight years as a designer for ISSEY MIYAKE and set out to do something new. Kitahara-san told me all about Triporous, and that got my imagination going about all the possibilities it could open up. A couple years later, in March 2021, I was launching the new A-POC ABLE ISSEY MIYAKE brand and using Triporous for the brand’s “TYPE-I” lineup.

Takayuki KitaharaWhen Miyamae-san told me he wanted to try out the fabric, I sent him a sample with some Triporous woven in. Then I just heard that he was giving it a look—so I wasn’t necessarily expecting it when I found out that he’d decided to go with Triporous. I was hoping it might happen, but it didn’t really hit me that Triporous was going to be part of the brand until I saw the finished product for myself.

MiyamaeTriporous is made from rice husks. Rice is the staple food in Japan—it’s a core part of day to day life, basically, and it’s a biomass material, too. I think what got me curious about using Triporous was that dynamic story, how the rice element gave the material a larger narrative. We came into 2021 knowing that we wanted to kind of start from square one. Not only is it our 50th year in business at ISSEY MIYAKE INC., but COVID-19 is transforming the way people live. The timing seemed right for looking a new direction and thinking about how we approach the way we make clothes. We’re fully responsible for our production—and that means we have to think more carefully than ever before about our materials. We have to be sensitive to bigger concerns and keep thinking about how we, as a designer, can be part of the solutions to issues facing society. To me, that’s what making things is all about.

Releasing three basic items in black

KitaharaI was working on communication and branding for Triporous, so I knew the potential it had—and also the hurdles it had to clear. It has the capability to purify water and air, first of all, which obviously makes it a promising material in so many different areas. That scope, that versatility, is one of its biggest selling points. It offers a lot for the clothing industry, too; Triporous gives fabric deodorization capabilities and adds other functional dimensions, for example. That said, there are still issues to deal with. Using Triporous isn’t as easy as just weaving it into fabric; you have to make sure that the material is strong enough to serve its purpose as actual threading without sacrificing any functional performance, and you can only use it for black fabric. From my perspective, those were definitely limitations on what Triporous could do.

MiyamaeIn terms of clothing design, not being able to use the material for anything other than black definitely ties our hands. But grappling with those constraints actually makes the process that much more fulfilling—we’ve got a stronger motivation to show that we can make it work. One thing I love about making things is seeing what we can do under the conditions we’re given. The only color we had on our palette was black. Instead of backing away from the canvas, so to speak, we picked up our brushes and focused on really doing something great with that single color.

©ISSEY MIYAKE INC. Photo by Hiroshi Iwasaki

KitaharaAnd you came up with a jacket, a pair of pants, and a polo shirt.

MiyamaeRight. For the TYPE-I project, we released three new black items with distinctive textures that can’t be realized by conventional dyeing techniques. The material does more than affect the texture, too. Black is prone to fading over time, but Triporous doesn’t lose color after multiple washings. We wanted to gauge how people reacted to the material and the items, so we narrowed things down to a set of three basic items.

What both sides have in common:
A focus on how to approach people

KitaharaWhat I did for Triporous and the TYPE- I project was just creating an opportunity, I suppose, or maybe planting the seeds for an opportunity. If you asked me to pat myself on the back for something, I guess I’d say I got in touch with exactly the right person at exactly the right time.

MiyamaeIt wasn’t just a coincidence that things came together the way they did, though. When we met that first time, Kitahara-san was talking about how there’s no such thing as making things without co-work anymore. I think we made a connection because of that kind of mindset, a perspective we both take into our creative work.

KitaharaThe apparel industry is full of different pieces and stages—from the cotton producers to the fabric and thread manufacturers, the processing plants, and the distribution and sales outlets. Every single piece is essential to the whole, which, in a way, means that everyone’s collaborating all the time. The scope of that collaboration is growing, too, with the lines between producers and consumers constantly blurring in today’s world. A-POC embraces that change, making wearers part of the process—even at that first, vital step of turning cloth into clothing. It sure seems like that’s key to the A-POC vision, a belief in the idea that the wearing makes the clothing.

MiyamaeWe started the A-POC ABLE ISSEY MIYAKE brand as a way to keep evolving A-POC, which originated in 1998. A-POC is an acronym for “A Piece of Cloth,” and the name basically sums up what the system has been focusing on for over two decades now: designing clothing around the idea of a piece of cloth starting as a single strand of thread and ending up something a person actually wears. A-POC literally makes a connection between those two points. When you buy an A-POC item, you, the consumer, actually cut the fabric with scissors. It’s a new take on the producer-consumer dynamic, and it’s also a message underscoring how we want to approach clothes-making in a new way.

KitaharaSony’s purpose is to “Fill the world with emotion, through the power of creativity and technology,” but creating emotion isn’t a one-way street. The magic happens when the viewer or listener or user feels a spark of creativity in response to what you give them. That’s why I concentrate on finding ways to resonate with people, ways to bring people into the bigger experience. ISSEY MIYAKE INC. and Sony both really think hard about how to approach people. When you’ve got two groups with the same spirit running through their design work, collaboration is just a natural outcome—and the foundation for more teamwork is strong.

MiyamaeFrom the moment we started looking for new possibilities to explore through A-POC ABLE ISSEY MIYAKE, we found ourselves forging more connections with people who worked in different areas or different industries but had the same kinds of values as us. At A-POC ABLE ISSEY MIYAKE, we operate on two “lines”: projects and series. Projects are our platforms for connecting with people, and TYPE-I is just that.

Nothing beats turning
raw materials into something

KitaharaA lot of apparel brands buy their fabric from manufacturers, but brands at ISSEY MIYAKE INC. take things back a step further and actually make the fabrics themselves.

MiyamaeThat’s the idea. Since the 1970s, we have been doing its making things in direct communication with craftspeople, weavers, and fabric stores. That’s given us close relationships. Those connections open up better flexibility as we work with weavers to leverage new, digital technologies and manage our data in-house, which lets us do “high-mix, low-volume” production. There are times when we only make and sell a really small number of a given item; we want that ability to produce only what we need. In the apparel industry, the standard minimum lot size is around 1 bolt and 50 meters of fabric—but you can only do so much when you adhere to the conventional methods. If you want to break new ground, I think you have to do it yourself and start by developing the materials you want to use.

KitaharaIf you’re trying to mass-produce an item at low cost, you can work to reduce defect rates. You can work to keep cost price down, too, but you really can’t use a high value-added material like Triporous to do that. Direct communication with weavers is the only way to make it happen.

MiyamaeA big part of the reason I start out with making the material is just plain curiosity. Instead of waiting around for a new material to come along, my impulses are always pushing me to seek out new possibilities myself. I can’t help but think, “I wonder if I could…” That’s why I love starting from scratch. I love the whole process of dreaming up an idea, creating a material to work with, and then using it to turn the idea into something real. It’s the joy of making things, really.

Equipment at the test-weaving worksite that Kitahara visited after his conversation with Miyamae for Perspectives vol.9

Collaborating with a modern artist on a black jacket,
the next entry for the brand

KitaharaAnd Triporous also features in your newest release, something outside the TYPE-I lineup.

MiyamaeThat would be the TYPE-II Tatsuo Miyajima Project. It’s a collaboration with its namesake, Tatsuo Miyajima, who’s a modern artist. One of Miyajima-san’s favorite mediums to work in is digital LED counters, the core elements of lots of his works over the years. For the TYPE-II project, he came up with pieces that express time and life using single-digit numbers in blocky, digital renderings and speak to the concepts of “Keep Changing,” “Connect with Everything,” and “Continue Forever.” The numbers 1 through 9 are all embodiments of time and life, but there’s also the number 0—evocative of darkness and nothingness—which serves as a contrasting backdrop to bring the elements of time and life into a clearer, more powerful focus. Triporous gives us the kind of deep, rich black it takes to create that contrast and accentuate the numbers, so we decided to use it for the TYPE-II-002 item. Drawing on our research and development for TYPE-I and applying it to a different project altogether let us expand our black palette and reach into new ranges of expression.

KitaharaTriporous can be really useful in getting a probing, endless black because it keeps the fabric from fading.

MiyamaeRight. I knew that using Triporous for the fabric would help us get to the black that Miyajima-san has in mind. We used to churn out clothes at a pretty quick pace, putting out new collections on a set schedule every six months. A-POC ABLE ISSEY MIYAKE, though, doesn’t have to deal with the existing collection schedule. It’s free from those timing constraints. Really, it’s difficult to come up with something completely new in a six-month window. There are limits on what we can do as a single, isolated team with only that much time on the clock. I’m excited to see how effective communication with a diversifying mix of people can make manufacturing even more open and flexible.

KitaharaHistorically, clothing started out as a protective layer to wear over your body. Now, it’s a way to express yourself and use a part of your physical appearance to reflect your personal identity. I hope Triporous can foster that kind of self-expression. I’d love to keep spinning a narrative that really hits home with people and makes Triporous-based clothing something that people feel a connection with, something to use in showing the world who they are.

MiyamaeThat’s definitely a direction I want to go, too. We’ll keep working our way there, one step at a time. Someday, I want TYPE-I to be a standard bearer for A-POC ABLE ISSEY MIYAKE’s selection of items in black—and I definitely think we’re on our way.

Yoshiyuki Miyamae

Takayuki Kitahara
Senior Art Director
Creative Center
Sony Group Corporation

Editing by AXIS magazine

Text by Junya Hirokawa

Photo by Junya Igarashi

Learn more about Triporous 〉