Issey Miyake Kyoto

Kyoto's first stand-alone Issey Miyake opens in a traditional 132-year-old machiya

Designer Naoto Fukasawa, known for his mastery of modern minimalism, had one thing in mind when tasked with designing Kyoto's first Issey Miyake store — shades of gray. And in particular sumi, the Japanese word describing a traditional hue of charcoal gray. The end result is a clean-lined contemporary store deeply rooted in traditional Japanese aesthetics. Housed in a 132-year-old wooden merchant townhouse known as a machiya with a latticed wooden facade and tiled roof, the shop is set on a quiet Kyoto sidestreet. Inside, visitors will also discover an enclosed interior garden, where an old storehouse has been transformed into a small but perfectly formed gallery.

'Our idea was to make the colour and shape of the clothes stand out by turning the plaster walls, floors, fences and gravel a classical sumi colour,' explains Fukasawa. 'This was less a refurbishment than a restoration. In the parts that had been modernised over the years, we returned to the details of the time of construction as we imagined it.'

The shop — the first standalone Issey Miyake in Kyoto and the 15th in Japan — is a celebration of incremental shades of gray. A simple noren curtain made from natural ramie fibre marks the entrance with a monochrome logo by Katsumi Asaba. Latticed wooden doors slide open to reveal matte gray walls, created by specialist Kyoto craftspeople using charcoal pigment in plaster, alongside raw concrete floors and exposed timber frames.

In a gallery-like display, one wall showcases clothing from Issey Miyake Men and Homme Plissé Issey Miyake (don’t miss the funnel-necked Edge Coat with wide, fluid pleats in deep orange, created exclusively for the Kyoto store), while neat rows of Bao Bao Issey Miyake Bags in a rainbow-bright range of hues hang like pop art paintings on the facing wall. Watches, glasses and wallets are displayed out front in custom-made vitrines.

Kura gallery, however, is the undisputed scene-stealer. Accessed via a slate stone pathway leading to a serene expanse of smooth pebbles in the rear garden, the gallery interior, in contrast, explodes with light and colour. The white walled double-height space is currently home to the bold, bright textiles of the third series of the Ikko Tanaka Issey Miyake collection, with motifs by the late graphic designer.

Perhaps most fittingly, exhibitions at Kura will showcase not only works by Issey Miyake but also the creativity of the surrounding city. 'Kyoto has a capacity for accepting new things,' says Fukasawa. 'I see this store becoming a special place that assimilates the innovative spirit of Issey Miyake.'

Text / Danielle Demetriou