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Issey Miyake's New Technique For Perfect Pleats? Bake Them In The Oven

From the temperatures to the attention to chemistry, the designer's new process for pleating isn't unlike baking bread.

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The Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake is a pioneer when it comes to pleats. In 1993, his popular Pleats Please collection democratized the accordion folds for every everyday wear with a heat-treated, permanent pleat that was both washable and packable. Now, for his 2016 spring collection, Miyake is revolutionizing the pleat yet again—this time with a springy, sculptural micro-pleat that moves along the body like a Slinky.

The wavy, colorful dresses in the Baked Stretch collection are beautiful, but the process by which they're made is even more interesting. "With conventional pleats, we use specialized machinery to create the pleats," says Yoshiyuki Miyamae, the label's head of womenswear. This time they invented a process that involves applying heat-reactive glue to the fabric and baking it in an oven. The glue expands at high temperatures, forming the molds of the mold of the pleats. Miyame keeps the specifics of the technique close to the vest, since it's exclusive to Issey Miyake, but he says it's "opened a whole new door of expression with pleats."

Miyamae compares the process to baking bread, and indeed, the ovens that are now a part of their assembly line are not unlike giant commercial toasters. The clothing is fed into the oven on a conveyor belt-like apparatus, while heated plates on either side cause the glue to bake. The technique has allowed the label to scale the process for mass production, though the new process is still relatively labor intensive. "The current fashion cycle which requires delivery in a few months from the launch of the collection is nearly impossible," says Miyamae. "We plan material and fabrics with our business team before the Paris collection, in order to have a system which enables us to respond immediately after the Paris [fashion week]."

Baked Stretch will be available in February with prices ranging from $700-$2,000, depending on the item.

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