From the roof tiles and walls to the pebbles that fill the courtyard, one colour takes centre stage at Issey Miyake’s new Kyoto store in a subtle myriad of shades: grey.
The new Kyoto flagship, located on a low-rise lane in the Sanjo district, is housed in a wooden machiya townhouse dating back 132 years, with a gallery converted from a storehouse at the rear.
The store was designed by Naoto Fukasawa – a product designer famed for his minimal aesthetic and a longtime collaborator of Issey Miyake – who described his inspiration as sumi, a traditional Japanese shade of charcoal grey.
The façade is as discreet as it is elegant: beneath traditional grey roof tiles are vertical rows of dark latticed wood, a minimal ramie fabric noren curtain (white, natural cream or, of course, grey, depending on the season) and sliding doors.
Inside, matt grey walls – created by specialist Kyoto craftsmen mixing charcoal pigment with plaster – are complemented by concrete floors and dark timber frames that rise into a double height ceiling.
A limited selection of Issey Miyake Men and Homme Plissé Issey Miyake clothing is neatly displayed along one side of the store (including an Edge Coat with flowing pleats in a distinct shade of orange exclusive to the Kyoto store).
On the opposite wall, Bao Bao Issey Miyake bags hang in a gallery-like display providing further pops of colour, while the centre is filled with clean-lined dark wood and glass cabinets containing watches, wallets and glasses.
The first standalone Issey Miyake store in Kyoto and the 15th in Japan is many shades of grey. A wall of glass at the rear opens onto a serene grey walled garden filled with a sea of pebbles (each reportedly vetted to ensure they were an appropriate shade of grey) plus two trees, one blooming yellow flowers in spring, the other white blossoms in summer.
A grey slate path leads to Kura – a compact storehouse-turned-gallery with white walls and a dramatically high ceiling, which will showcase several exhibitions a year.
The inaugural show is a brilliant burst of primary colours from the third series of the Ikko Tanaka Issey Miyake collection, featuring the late graphic designer’s motifs on fabric printed, appropriately, in Kyoto. Further pieces from the same series were also showcased on the first floor of the machiya – a mezzanine area among the rafters reached via a grey staircase.
The biggest challenge in creating the space was harmonising gradations of grey across different materials, according to Fukasawa.
‘It was difficult to balance and control the thickness of the sumi in each of the surfaces,’ he tells Wallpaper*. ‘But I think we have made this into a calming space where you get a true sense of the age of the building.’
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