Between the pleats

Issey Miyake has turned his signature machine-washable pleated fabric into an art form.
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Indy Lifestyle Online
We've all seen those machines - usually at fairgrounds - that print a silly picture of you or your friends on to a T-shirt as a novelty souvenir. So too has the Japanese designer Issey Miyake, who has commandeered the same principle for his latest Pleats Please flagship, which opened last Saturday in London's Brook Street. Instead of having your favourite snapshot printed on your T-shirt, for a limited period customers are offered a higher-brow choice of six images by the controversial Japanese "art" photographer Araki. This is the perfect fusion of good design and fine art, instantly collectable and wearable too. And instead of a T-shirt, you can choose from any of the brightly coloured tunics and dresses. Your chosen garment is printed on within five minutes at no extra cost.

Pleats Please is a bit of a corny name for a very clever range of clothing made of finely pleated polyester. Each item is made from a single piece of fabric, first sewn together and then pleated and heat-sealed. The pleats expand as you do, and take on a life of their own when you put them on. Miyake believes clothes should be useful, convenient and relaxing. The garments, whether a simple square-cut tunic, a pair of tubular pants, or a full-length dress, are stored rolled up along the grain of the pleats. All very bright and Space Age. Stepping into the shop is like stepping into the future. Clear perspex chest drawers hold brightly coloured rolls of pleats, and you can see the way to wear the range by looking at the shop assistant, whose bubblegum pink hair clashes perfectly with her mix- and-match Pleats Please outfit.

The Pleats Please range is nothing short of miraculous - everything the modern, busy woman could possibly ever want: it is washable, by hand or machine, and the pleats dry into shape without so much as a puff of steam from the iron.

The first Pleats collection was launched in 1989, basic pieces in a vast range of colours that can be worn in many and varied combinations. The prices are much more affordable than the Miyake mainline, and start at pounds 60 for a mini-vest portraying your choice of Araki print.

Nobuyoshi Araki is the second in Miyake's Guest Artist Series. Last year, the featured artist was Yasumasa Morimura. He used the pleated surface of the clothes as a canvas for his photomontage images of entwined bodies.

Araki is better known in Japan than he is in the UK. There, mothers beg the art/porn photographer to take erotic pictures of their daughters, and models queue up to be tied and hung from the ceiling in various states of undress before the photographer's lens. The images for Pleats Please include one of the man himself, with hair flying into unruly devil-like horns, as well as his usual shots of young Japanese women in languid poses.

The Araki pieces are all tight and body-hugging, as befits the work of an artist who toys with the world of sex. The wider the pleats expand, the more obscure the images become, so you don't have to risk being picked up by the vice squad as you push your trolley around Tesco. Alternatively, you could always frame the piece and hang it on your walln

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