When his ‘Plastic Body’ pieces were first revealed on the catwalk in 1980 Issey Miyake had already spent a decade liberating his clients by adopting innovative approaches to materials and garment fabrication. Typically soft, amorphous and airy, his clothes had served to assert the body rather than hide it, floating over limbs and falling naturally as the wearer moved, allowing gesture and light to define his lines.
Still from the Issey Miyake catwalk show, Autumn-Winter 1980-81
These clothes gave the wearer new freedom to speak via the materials rather than be confined by them, reflecting poet Lawrence Weider’s understanding that “As cloth is to body, body is to spirit,” asserting that an outfit is more an extension of the self than an addition to it. In these glossy, stiff new forms, the Plastic Body stood firm against the current of his established vocabulary, making use of a hard new sartorial language to re-assert the pre-eminence of both his essential tenets: the primacy of the human form and the materiality of his creations.
Bodybuilder Lisa Lyon photographed by Robert Mapplethorpe, 1982
These ‘Plastic Bodies’ were no longer free-flowing expressions of human movement, but instead made of hard, fibre re-enforced plastic and worn like a mask on the body, endowing the wearer with an aggrandised persona much like the Noh masks of traditional Japanese theatre. They were performative, brash and glitzy, and in this vein solely appropriate for the most outrageous followers of fashion. “Issey’s clothes are like barometers” stated designer Eiko Ishioka, “they measure the wearer’s capacity for living”. Their effect was immediate, and the fashion world was lit up by their iridescent glow.
Grace Jones at a party in 2001
Though fixed in form the Plastic Bodies transcended time, at once recalling the breastplates of ancient armour and foretelling the audacious showiness of the 1980s. Who better, then, to be their most conspicuous model but Grace Jones; a singer whose power was matched only by her extravagance. Jones’s breastplate was blue. She wore it on stage, she wore it at parties, she wore it on her most iconic photoshoots – those with Jean-Paul Goude, and it appeared on the cover of her compilation album in 2003.
Embellished images of Grace Jones by Jean-Paul Goude, 1981
Her work, like Issey’s, didn’t fit neatly into any single category, falling more broadly into a wider realm of ‘art’. Indeed, there is a contradictory element about Jones, the timeless way she dressed and expressed herself being formed as a necessary product of the era in which she lived. Likewise as Rosita and Tai Missoni suggested “The creativeness of Issey Miyake goes beyond the limits of time and fashion but has always an extraordinary understanding of the present – the expression of a poet.” The combination of Grace Jones and the blue Issey Miyake breastplate is one of the prevailing images of an era that was exploding in innovation, from music to art and most pertinently fashion. It is of little surprise then that it is this garment, in this glimmering blue colourway that has now become one of the most sought-after items of collectable clothing today.
In 2014 Kerry Taylor Auctions sold a red version for £38,000, in 2019 a green version for £32,000 and in 2021 a bronze version for £32,000 but we have never had the chance to offer one in Grace Jones’ electric blue…until now.
The Mr Steven Philip Collection (Lots 1-147)
Tuesday 20th June 2023
Passion for Fashion (Lots 148-557)
Wednesday 21st June 2023
249-253 Long Lane
Friday 16th June - 9am to 5pm
Sunday 18th June - 11am to 4pm
Monday 19th June - 9am to 4pm