With its tiered roof of interlocking clay tiles, latticed wooden exterior and exposed beams, the new Issey Miyake Kyoto flagship, located in the city’s Nakagyo area, is more than just a store; it’s a celebration of one of Kyoto’s best-known traditional structures — the machiya (merchant townhouse).
Issey Miyake, famed for weaving together cutting-edge design with
traditional Japanese values and craftsmanship, the 132-year-old machiya
is the result of years of searching for the ideal space for its first
stand-alone store in Kyoto, a city steeped in historical significance.
Conceived by Naoto Fukasawa, a longtime Issey Miyake
design collaborator and current director of The Japan Folk Crafts
Museum, the structure’s overarching palette of soft grays is inspired by
the color of sumi (charcoal) and highlights the machiya’s
original architectural features. Walls, sheathed in plaster blended with
charcoal, meet a slightly duskier shade of concrete floor, while
overhead wooden beams accentuate the structure’s high ceiling and open
mezzanine. Letting in natural light from the rear is a glass wall that
looks out onto a slate path that cuts through a bed of smooth gray
pebbles and leads to another traditional feature, the machiya’s kura (storehouse), now the Issey Miyake Kyoto gallery space.
Innovation and tradition: The first floor of Issey Miyake Kyoto
showcases Issey Miyake items, selected to match the ambience of the
interior. © ISSEY MIYAKE INC. Photography: Masaya Yoshimura, Copist
Fukasawa’s meticulous use of modulated grays, which reportedly included
checking the shade of each of the pebbles, the collection of garments
and accessories on the first floor is thoughtfully chosen to match the
ambience of the space. Against one wall you’ll find selections from
Issey Miyake Men and Homme Plisse Miyake in an exquisitely tailored
study of function and comfort, while opposite geometric Bao Bao Issey
Miyake bags hang in complementing accent colors. In between, large
glass-and-wood display cases draw light and attention to other bags and
accessories, including watches, glasses and hats.
The gray color
scheme, crafted and applied by traditional Kyoto plasterers, extends to
the exterior of the small Kura gallery, which will host several events a
year. Its inaugural exhibition, — a presentation of works by Ikko
Tanaka — pairs faithful replicas of the renowned late graphic designer’s
vibrant prints with pieces from the Ikko Tanaka Issey Miyake No. 3
collection. It’s an unexpected riot of colors that continues on the
machiya’s wooden mezzanine shop floor, where other pieces from the
collection can also be found.
Outside, in the pebble-carpeted courtyard, a return to subtle details enhances the space’s meditative quality. In spring, a dankoubai (Japanese spice tree) promises to punctuate the grays with yellow buds; in summer, a yamaboshi
(Japanese strawberry tree) will bloom white, while in autumn it will
bear red berries, signaling the passing season. Similarly, the
storefront’s traditional ramie noren, a discreet design by Katsumi
Asaba, will be rotated from off-white to natural ramie to black.
The Kura (storehouse) gallery is currently showing an exhibition in
honor of the late graphic designer Ikko Tanaka. | © ISSEY MIYAKE INC.
PHOTOGRAPHY: MASAYA YOSHIMURA, COPIST