At 7, fashion designer Issey Miyake survived the Hiroshima bombing. He kept it a secret for years.

At 8.15am on August 6, 1945, there was a blinding flash of light above the town of Hiroshima, Japan.

The atomic bomb, dropped by the US in the dying stages of World War II, would kill more than sixty thousand people that day – and shatter the lives of hundreds of thousands more left behind.

One of those survivors was a seven-year-old boy named Issey Miyake, who was riding his bicycle to school when the bomb dropped.

"When I close my eyes, I still see things no one should ever experience: a bright red light, the black cloud soon after, people running in every direction trying desperately to escape. I remember it all. Within three years, my mother died from radiation exposure," Miyake would go on to write in a 2009 op-ed in The New York Times.

By then, he was a world-famous fashion designer. And up until then, he had never spoken – publicly, at least – about what had happened on that terrible day in Hiroshima.

Listen to Mamamia's daily podcast, The Quicky. Story continues below.

If you don't recognise Issey Miyake's name, there is a high chance you recognise his work.

You have probably worn his perfume: A Drop D'Issey or Fusion D'Issey. You've likely seen his signature pleats on both runways and in stores.

And you definitely know of his turtleneck – after all, it became the staple clothing of late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. 


"[Miyake] made me like a hundred of them," Jobs told an interviewer in 2011, the year he died. "I have enough to last for the rest of my life."

The uniform. Image: Getty.

Miyake's east-meets-west fusion drew worldwide acclaim, and his use of synthetic and natural material consistently added to his unique viewpoint. He also preferred loose clothing over the more traditional "fitted" pieces of his western counterparts.


"To me, clothes should not be things which confine or enclose the body," he said in a 1988 lecture. "Clothes should make one free and feel like being oneself. I think they are one of the best ways of expressing the liberation of the body and the mind."

Issey Miyake's fall-winter collection in Paris, France on March 11, 1997. Image: Daniel Simon/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images.

Issey Miyake's Womenswear Fall/Winter 2016/2017 on March 4, 2016 in Paris, France. Image: Francois Durand/Getty Images.


Miyake always wanted his fashion to speak for him, not his personal life. Yet in 2009, just after an agreement was made between the US and Russia to reduce nuclear arms, the designer felt compelled to address the events of the bombing that destroyed his hometown.

"I have never chosen to share my memories or thoughts of that day. I have tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to put them behind me, preferring to think of things that can be created, not destroyed, and that bring beauty and joy. I gravitated toward the field of clothing design, partly because it is a creative format that is modern and optimistic," he wrote in The New York Times op-ed.


"I tried never to be defined by my past. I did not want to be labelled 'the designer who survived the atomic bomb', and therefore I have always avoided questions about Hiroshima. They made me uncomfortable.

"But now I realise it is a subject that must be discussed if we are ever to rid the world of nuclear weapons. There is a movement in Hiroshima to invite Mr. Obama to Universal Peace Day on August 6, the annual commemoration of that fateful day. I hope he will accept. My wish is motivated by a desire not to dwell on the past, but rather to give a sign to the world that the American president’s goal is to work to eliminate nuclear wars in the future."

Obama would go on to become the first sitting US president to visit Hiroshima in 2016.

President Obama embraces an a-bomb victim at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park on May 27, 2016 in Hiroshima, Japan. Image: Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images.


While Miyake acknowledged the importance of the agreement between the US and Russia, he also acknowledged that no one person or country can stop nuclear warfare.

"For there to be any hope of peace, people around the world must add their voices to President Obama’s," he continued in his op-ed.

"If Mr. Obama could walk across the Peace Bridge in Hiroshima, whose balustrades were designed by the Japanese-American sculptor Isamu Noguchi as a reminder both of his ties to East and West and of what humans do to one another out of hatred, it would be both a real and a symbolic step toward creating a world that knows no fear of nuclear threat.

"Every step taken is another step closer to world peace."

Watch: Fashion icon Anna Wintour's interview advice. Story continues below.


Video via Mamamia.

Issey Miyake passed away from liver cancer on August 5 this year. He was 84 years old.

Having lived a fiercely private life, there is no clear indication on whether the designer had children or a partner.

But maybe that's the point. Miyake never wanted to be a celebrity or a star. He never wanted to be in the spotlight. He just wanted to create art.

"People refer to clothes that no one can wear as being 'avant garde', but that's not really true. People always refer to the past when they speak, but I just happen to think that the present is a bit behind itself," he said philosophically in a 1998 interview.

"I would be very happy if it was said of me that I had provided some keys to the 21st century. All I can do is to keep experimenting, keep developing my thoughts further. Certain people think that the definition of design is the beauty of the useful, but in my own work I want to integrate feelings, emotion. You have to put life into it."

Feature image: Getty.

Love watching TV and movies? Take our survey now to go in the running to win a $50 gift voucher.