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Issey Miyake Makes Light Out of PET Bottles

The Japanese designer presented his innovative light installation at the Fondation Cartier in Paris.

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Light installation by Issey Miyake evoking the night at the Fondation Cartier

Light installation by Issey Miyake evoking the night at the Fondation Cartier

Photo By Thomas Salva, Courtesy

LET THERE BE LIGHT: “Everything is an experiment,” said Issey Miyake as he walked through the high-tech light installation he created for the Fondation Cartier, which celebrated its 30th anniversary in Paris on Friday night.

Pointing to an eclectic mix of folded lamps resembling fish, hens and snakes, the Japanese designer said: “It looks like paper, but it’s not. It’s a new generation of a material we developed [entirely] from PET bottles; better quality.”

The collective “we” was a reference to Reality Labs, a research group Miyake founded in 2007 to explore production techniques that take into account environmental issues.

The recycled material, which is also employed in Miyake’s signature ultra-light pleated garments, uses less energy and emits less carbon dioxide than the manufacture of a new material would.

“It’s very solid,” said the designer, demonstrating his point by pulling on a guest’s elaborately folded and printed dress made from the eco-friendly cloth.

The lamps form three-dimensional structures creating a unique play of light and shadow, intrinsic to Japanese culture and on display at the Fondation Cartier until the end of August.

Miyake, who oversees his eponymous label but does not actively design the collections, said he eschews the time restraints of the international fashion calendar in favor of his research work.

“In fashion you need to present something new every six months, but it takes time to study things. Development is very important,” he asserted. 

At his own Tokyo design museum, 21_21 Design Sight, artists get a chance to do just that. Past exhibitions span from chocolate-inspired design to — most recently — rice.

Next on the agenda is “Image-Makers,” revealed Miyake, a show starring French photographer Jean-Paul Goude, U.S. filmmaker, musician and painter David Lynch, Japanese designer Noritaka Tatehana and U.S. visual artist Robert Wilson, among others.

Asked about the content of the exhibit, slated to run July 4 through Oct. 5, Miyake nonchalantly shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know what they will do – until it’s done,” he said, adding that he hoped Japan would one day have its own national design museum.