written by
Milan Habig

A-POC: Issey Miyake’s Genius technique to reduce textile waste.

Fashion Sustainability 4 min read

What is Issey Miyake A-POC? What does A-POC Stand for?

A futuristic technology that was introduced to us by the late great Issey Miyake.

Photography by Yasuaki Yoshinaga, 1999

Issey Miyake is a Japanese design house named after its founder, the legendary Japanese designer Issey Miyake (1938-2022). He is known for his unusual approach to design. For Miyake, the development of the fabric comes first, and afterward, the design process of the garment is started. This approach is totally unique in the world of fashion because, usually, the design of the garment comes first, and then the fabric is chosen, cut, and sewn together. This way of creating often sets him apart from other designers.

At the age of 7, Miyake witnessed the nuclear bombing of his hometown. The first encounter that sparked his interest in design was when he came into contact with two bridges built by the Japanese artist Isamu Noguchi (whose interior designs for Vitra are quite famous as well). Miyake studied design at the art school Tama in Tokyo. During this time, he designed his first-ever collection in 1963 for the Toyo Rayon calendar (Toray Industries, Inc nowadays) because he was requested by Jo Murakoshi, who was the art director of the company back then.

He graduated in 1964 and moved to Paris in 1965 to work for Parisian designers Guy Laroche and Hubert de Givenchy. During this time, he witnessed the French '68 movement, which left an impact. In 1969, he moved for one year to New York to work for Geoffrey Beene. In 1970, he moved back to his home country Japan and founded the Issey Miyake Design Studio. The first womenswear collection was presented in New York in 1971, and the first menswear collection was presented in 1978.

In 1997, Miyake stepped down as the creative director of his namesake label to fully focus on the study of fabrics and their development. But he continued to oversee the collections, which were designed by his pupils Naoki Takizawa and later Tai Fujiwara. In 2011, Yoshiyuki Miyamae took the position as creative director for the women's line. Today, the man behind the collections is Satoshi Kondo, who has already worked for over 13 years for the house Issey Miyake and was appointed as creative director in 2020.

Issey Miyake in his Atelier

For Issey Miyake, who grew up in a war-torn Japan after the Second World War, the functionality of clothing was always a priority. His goal was to produce clothing that can be worn in any situation by everybody. During his career, Issey Miyake introduced many groundbreaking new technologies and fabrics to the world and also worked on preserving old techniques as well as knowledge. He revolutionized the process of pleating, a technique where an oversized piece of polyester fabric is folded and then under high pressure as well as heat is pressed into a certain form. By folding the garment and then heating it, the unique effect of the so-called plisse is created, found in the House lines: Pleats Please (women's) and Homme Plissé (men's).

While most people are aware of the plisse lines, one concept and its genius is often forgotten, even though it is one of the core concepts of Issey Miyake: A Piece of Cloth or A-POC for short. Believe me, it's truly amazing! The concept A-POC was first introduced in 1997 by Miyake and Fujiwara, the same year Miyake left his position as creative director of his namesake label.

A-POC Radical Fashion Exhibition 2001
"I have endeavored to experiment to make fundamental changes to the system of making clothes. Think: a thread goes into a machine that, in turn, generates complete clothing using the latest computer technology and eliminates the usual need for cutting and sewing the fabric."

- Issey Miyake

A big piece of fabric is woven from one single thread by a computer-driven machine, which already knows the pattern of the finished garment. This results in a finished two-dimensional piece of fabric which is also a finished garment that can be customized by the wearer to fulfill individual needs. Miyake and Fujiwara's A-POC (A Piece of Clothing) Queen Textile introduces an innovative clothing system that combines mass production with self-tailoring, merging two seemingly contradictory approaches. In this system, an industrial weaving machine is preprogrammed to generate a continuous tube of fabric on a large scale. Within this tube, a repeating pattern of seams is woven, forming a patchwork of shapes that start to resemble dresses, shirts, socks, gloves, and hats. The unique aspect is that the customer can easily cut along the seams without disrupting the tubular structure of each individual item. As a result, a puzzle of monochromatic garments is created, leaving virtually no wasted material behind.

Issey Miyake and Fujiwara Dai. A-POC Queen Textile 1997.
A-POC Catalogue 1997

Usually, a designer first develops a pattern, then picks the fabric. The next step is cutting the fabric along the pattern, and then sewing the parts into the garment. But with A-POC, this process is pretty much eliminated. The designer develops the pattern, and the machine spits out a ready-made garment. This production process also fights the problem of textile waste, as the computer calculates the amount of thread needed and then produces the garment according to the needs. This results in perfect usage of material to finish a garment, and not even a little bit of material goes to waste. For example, from one piece of fabric, it can be turned into gloves, briefs, bras, skirts, pants, or a jacket, depending on the pattern woven into the fabric.

Issey Miyake Spring/Summer 1999

What used to be a sideline of the house has now fused as one of the core principles into the mainline that exists today.

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