Home News Remembering Beauty Maverick Issey Miyake – WWD

Remembering Beauty Maverick Issey Miyake – WWD


PARIS — Issey Miyake, the Japanese fashion maverick who died on Aug. 5 at the age of 84, was groundbreaking in the world of fragrance, too.

The designer — who founded his design studio in 1970 and made it synonymous with colorful, practical and innovative creations — signed a licensing agreement in 1991 with Shiseido Co. to produce his first women’s fragrance. It was the debut scent to be manufactured by Beauté Prestige International, or BPI, a Paris-based affiliate set up by Shiseido that year.

In 1992, Miyake’s first signature fragrance came out and was pioneering in all respects. Called L’Eau d’Issey, the women’s scent was inspired by water.

“When I thought of perfume, the first thing that came to mind was water,” said Issey Miyake in a WWD article dated March 27, 1992. “So we called it L’Eau d’Issey, which is also a play on the word ‘odyssey.’”

Issey Miyake

Issey Miyake

Brigitte Lacombe/Courtesy Photo

The soft, colorless fragrance came in a mold-breaking conical shape bottle, with a metallic cap topped with a ball.

Chantal Roos, who was BPI’s former chief executive officer and built Miyake’s fragrance business with him, recalled the designer as saying: “I don’t like perfumes, I don’t like fragrances. I only like pure water running on the body of a woman.”

She remembered Miyake as being open to discussing business, but with strict visions of what he had in mind. “For example, for the advertising it was Irving Penn and nobody else,” said Roos.

The Penn-lensed ad campaign bore the tagline “Le parfums Pure d’Issey Miyake” in Europe. Miyake collaborated frequently with Penn for catalogues, posters and campaigns, ultimately publishing two books dedicated to the images their work together produced.

The designer was surprised at the success of the scent. L’Eau d’Issey won numerous prizes, including a Fragrance Foundation FiFi for best women’s introduction in Europe in 1993.

“People recognize me more through my perfume than my fashion now,” said Miyake, in a 1994 WWD interview.

A men’s scent, L’Eau d’Issey Pour Homme, came next. L’Eau d’Issey — now considered to be a classic perfume — went on to inspire other fragrances from the designer.

L’Eau d’Issey Pour Homme

Courtesy Photo

Today, the portfolio, which is still run by Shiseido, includes the Drop d’Issey, L’Eau d’Issey Pour Homme and Fusion d’Issey fragrances.

“When I think of Mr. Miyake, the words that come to my mind are ‘pure creation,’ ‘vision,’ ‘integrity,’ ‘humility,’ ‘respect’ and ‘teamwork,’” said Nathalie Helloin-Kamel, formerly chief brands officer at BPI, and currently CEO of Give Back Beauty. “He has always favored creativity over business and has always been ready to bear the consequences of this decision. Compromise was not part of his vocabulary.

“Because of this mind-set, [Mr. Miyake] probably missed a few commercial opportunities, but never lost his soul and kept the uniqueness of both his fashion and fragrance brand,” said Helloin-Kamel. “He was an artist.

“As his fragrance partner, I was sometimes impatient and frustrated not to be able to match the fragrance market expectations and rules,” she continued. “Yet a few years later, I know he was right!”

“He was such a creator, with a real vision, and he brought so much innovation in all his work,” said Eric Henry, formerly chief operating officer of BPI and today president of brand-building consultancy EH4B. “He was not only a fashion designer, he was an amazing ‘inventor.’

“As far as fragrances are concerned, he opened a new chapter in the perfume world with Les Eaux, along with Mr. [Yoshiharu] Fukuhara and Chantal Roos,” continued Henry, who spent 18 years helping to build the Issey Miyake fragrance business around the world.

“Issey Miyake was not only an icon, but also an amazing visionary and a fabulous creator,” wrote Franck Marilly, president and CEO of Shiseido EMEA and global fragrances, on Twitter. “His vision of fashion has been a true milestone for the whole industry and emblematic fragrances, among which [is] L’Eau d’Issey, became true icons.

“We would like to pay tribute to his passion for technology-driven clothing design, his constant respect and celebration of nature and the meaningful purpose in everything he created and designed,” continued Marilly, who called Shiseido’s longstanding collaboration with Miyake “an amazing journey of creativity we will pursue, inspired by his heritage. He will be deeply missed.”

Masahiko Uotani, president and CEO of Shiseido Co. Ltd., issued a statement paying respects to Miyake.

“Since the 1970s, we have shared numerous collaborations on hair and makeup for his fashion shows, fragrance brand ‘Issey Miyake Parfums’ and more, as we both followed the same path venturing out from Japan to the world, while maintaining a sense of acuteness honed in Japan,” wrote Uotani.

“His philosophy echoes with ours in valuing Japanese heritage, cutting-edge technologies, universal design transcending race and age, and above all, his will to make a better world by the power of design,” continued Uotani. “It is our responsibility for those who share his sense of purpose to contribute to making a better world by delivering Japanese beauty and craftsmanship inspired by this Japanese legend.”

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