For more than two decades, Japanese luxury label Issey Miyake set out to weave the future of fashion with its revolutionary A-POC (A Piece of Cloth) brand, and in 2021 it aspired to push the boundaries of creativity even further with the spin-off A-POC ABLE led by designer Yoshiyuki Miyamae and his engineering team. Working hard to deliver inspirational pieces, the brand’s latest project is a pair of unisex sandals featuring 3D-printed soles and hand-woven cords.
Done in collaboration with Japanese designer footwear brand Magarimono, the “TYPE-III Magarimono project” shoes are inspired by the design of traditionally hand-woven thonged Japanese sandals made with natural fibers, commonly known as zōri. So by integrating 3D printing technology and a centuries-old craftsmanship tradition, the duo has created an unprecedented product.
For this project, the designers relied on 3D printing technology to create a unique sole whose structure allows cords to be hand-woven directly into it. In fact, the braided part functions not only as a design but also as a cushioned insole, making this pair the result of technology, handicrafts, and comfortable footwear.
After more than a year in the making, the “TYPE-III Magarimono project” was finally revealed on March 25, 2022. A marriage of art and fashion, the sandals are being sold at Issey Miyake’s flagship A–POC ABLE stores in Tokyo and Kyoto and the original Issey Miyake shops in Marunouchi, Tokyo, and Semba, Osaka. Designed and printed with environmentally friendly materials, the black sandals cost ¥ 88,000 (roughly $680).
Commenting on the project, Magarimono Co-founder Masaharu Ono, described in a social media post that “It feels like it was a long time ago, but I was able to complete it [the TYPE-III project] after a series of miraculous encounters from beginning to end. Comparing the project at the start and after completion, I can say that the people involved have at least tripled.”
For this project, Miyamae evaluated how Magarimono designed 3D printed footwear for its genesis model, the “Originals” collection. He soon realized that once free from the restrictions of mass production, the technology allowed designers unlimited creativity. As a result, like all Magarimono’s exclusive designs, “Originals,” shaped like a cumulonimbus cloud motif, launched in 2020 to become the first fully 3D printed sneaker sold in Japan.
Following the footwear’s success, the brand even chose to convert it into an NFT (Non-fungible token) to become Magarimono’s first virtual sneaker. Magarimono relies heavily on 3D printing, but for its NFT virtual shoe design, it has become immersed in blockchain technology. Aside from real 3D printed shoes to wear out in the street, the brand began selling several collectible virtual sneakers as NFT. Buyers can try the shoes in a metaverse world where they have access to 3D avatars.
Piggybacking on Magarimono’s previous creation, the designers at A-POC ABLE have now transcended the boundaries of distinctive sneaker fashion. “TYPE-III” harmonizes both tradition and innovation and incorporates the functions and structures created by Magarimono’s 3D design into products that can be used in everyday life, says Ono. So maybe someday, these sandals could also be part of the NFT universe.
If Magarimono is known for adding a contemporary essence to traditional Japanese designs, then the collaboration with A-POC ABLE has taken that concept even further. A-POC ABLE’s parent house, Issey Miyake, has been at the forefront of fashion for over half a century. The namesake fashion mogul that created the brand is well known for his forward-thinking attitude and style, which he has defined as a mixture of traditional materials with technological advancements in fashion.
Miyake was quite a vanguardist, experimenting with fast-forward fabrics in the 1970s like plastic, Plexiglas, silicon, and copper cable. While learning to harness and refine some of the cutting-edge synthetic technologies of the time, Miyake also visited historic production regions and worked to revitalize traditional dyeing and production that were on the verge of extinction.
The leading designer’s fascination with the synergy of technological advances and local traditions is still a big part of the Miyake house. That is quite clear in the new 3D printed and handwoven sandal design, which works as both a fashion experience and a groundbreaking innovation in footwear. A lot of Miyake’s work is done in research labs instead of ateliers. With the incorporation of 3D printing into its footwear, it’s only a matter of time before the brand creates a new fashion item with the technology.