Harnessing wind is something the British industrial designer James Dyson has spent a large part of his life devoted to perfecting. So when Dai Fujiwara, Creative Director of Issey Miyake set upon the idea of designing his Spring Summer ’08 collection around all forms of wind, there could be no better man to design the set for the show than James Dyson. We grabbed the man himself backstage after the proceedings and found out what he made of the experience.
Click here to see pictures of the design process and from the show itself.
First of all, congratulations.
Thank you very much, did you enjoy it? Did you like the clothes?
I did enjoy it very much. If I’m being honest, I thought the wind element was going to make the clothes move a little more, which I’m guessing was the intention?
Very much so, but it’s quite difficult to create a really large force of air like you’d get in a natural wind by using machines, but we did get the clothes moving quite well I think. It was quite sexy I think the way the hoses moved out and in.
This is obviously the first time you’ve worked on anything like this. Have you previously been interested in fashion?
I’ve always been interested in fashion. My daughter’s a fashion designer and my son-in-law’s a fashion designer, they used to design for Paul Smith and now have their own labels. But I’ve always been interested in any form of design actually, that’s why I was at the Design Museum, because I’m very keen on design as a whole.
What’s your opinion on the merging of disciplines that’s recently been engulfing all sorts of disciplines that were previously seen to be very separate?
I think in the past perhaps we labelled people too much and I think you know if you’ve learnt the process of design then you can apply it to a number of other disciplines and get involved in disciplines outside one’s immediate training. I think it’s good to get out and see what other people are doing. It’s very easy to get stuck in prototypes in my factory and not go out and see what much more creative people are doing.
What have you learnt from working with Dai?
Well what was most interesting was he took the vacuum cleaners to bits and laid the parts out, and then took inspiration from the individual pieces and made clothes based on what are industrial components. They weren’t in the show but he made a wonderful pair of culottes where each leg of the culottes is a cluster of cyclones, which is surprisingly beautiful and very interesting that industrial and very purposeful components can be transformed into very fluid items of clothing. It’s interesting to see where someone takes inspiration from, whether it’s the weather maps you see on some of the fabrics, or these industrial components. This piece here is wrapped around the motor of the vacuum cleaner and stops the vibration transmitting from the motor to the body of the vacuum cleaner, and that became the inspiration for a hat, literally stopping the wind vibrating your head. It’s a brilliant display of interesting use of materials, which is what I especially love.
Do you feel you’ve gained anything from the project as a designer?
Watching how the very best fashion designers work, the fastidiousness with, which they take the design and how they think about the design and particularly in their case how they develop new materials and new ways of making thing. Those very long diagonal pleats at the beginning of the show I thought were amazing, the springiness of the material was just incredible and really very inspirational for me.
And do you think that there are parallels with your work?
Of course there are. Fashion is much more immediate than the sort of thing I do. You can design something, make it and then you’ve got it and you can see it. For us it can take ten years or even longer to do something so to see their freshness and willingness to try things and experiment and do different things is really interesting. I’ve learnt a lot from that. And apart from anything it was just fun to do. I don’t want to claim there was anything particularly deep about it, but getting involved in a fashion show and working on getting a giant vacuum cleaner was fun. I didn’t want it to dominate the clothes, which is of course what everybody’s ultimately there for. I quite liked the way those things, though they’re yellow and slightly distracting, they were very much focused on the person, a bit like spotlights, highlighting the models. The worst possible thing would have been if they’d distracted from what was taking place on the catwalk.
How did you come up with the concept of your set design? Did you have a hand in Dai’s collection designs from the start to give you a feel of how the fashion side would look?
I saw his themes for the first time at the Place des Vosges back in January and then I saw some sketches and photographs at various stages, each time it was very exciting. And Dai was very involved in my side of the plans. We had a great meeting and started drawing away, working out how the sets might look together with the clothes.
The difference between product design and your collaboration here for instance is that the end product is something very concrete, built to last. But with this it’s being dismantled as we speak, minutes after the show. What do you make of this?
Well that’s what’s fun for me actually is this sense of immediacy. It goes back to what I was saying earlier about stepping outside my normal world and experiencing how other people work. Our new electric motor took eleven years to make, our robotics, which we’re still working on have taken us eleven years so far, so it’s lovely to do something much more immediate and temporary too. I like long term things very much but it’s nice to see the other side again.
What of the very obvious eco message in the show, was that a meeting of minds?
That’s very much the Issey Miyake message, hence the weather map prints on some of the clothing. We’ve all got to be concerned about it, and we’ve recently developed the Airblade hand drier, which you might have seen. It uses a quarter of the energy of a normal hand drier because it has no heater and it runs for ten seconds, not forty, hence it uses far less electricity. We’re developing a lot of products like this that use less water or electricity or do the job a bit quicker and therefore use less electricity. People want these products, so it’s stupid not to do it.
Do you see sustainable design as liberating or limiting?
It’s very creative, I think. Even if you just look at it commercially, quite apart from the fact of the good one’s doing using less electricity, people want to buy eco-friendly appliances and we’ve managed to develop our latest products to be more effective both in eco terms and in terms of doing a better job. So it’s another angle to design, it’s another design attribute to work towards, so instead of just doing something quicker or better, we can now strive to make things using less materials, less energy and less water or heat. So in that sense it’s really very liberating and exciting, not restricting at all. What’s interesting is the development. Previously these things wouldn’t sell. I remember going to Wall Mart only about four years ago and told them we had products that use less electricity. Their outright response was that nobody was interested in that and they were being true, but look how quickly all that’s changed.
Have you plans for future collaborations?
I’d love to do something again. Maybe this particular experience was a one off, but I’m very interested in Issey Miyake’s Design Musueum in Tokyo, it’s the most wonderful building and venture, so I’d love to be involved in something to do with that.