That fashion designer Issey Miyake, who died last week at the age of 84, will be remembered for many things. He made forward-thinking clothes feel elegant and rebellious, and did so with ease. He was one of the first Japanese designers to show in Paris, equipping generations of creative types in pleated trousers and shirts. But one particular piece from his extensive catalog of works stands out. A futuristic and utilitarian bomber from a 1996 collection, it has built a rabid following in the twenty years since its debut.
It could be argued that the legacy of this jacket began not on a catwalk, but on the red carpet, when the late Robin Williams wore it to the premiere of his film in 1997. Flubber. It was a chilly November day, so wearing a heavier jacket was not surprising. But wearing such an avant-garde design to the premiere of a children’s film was bound to turn some heads. “Just stay out of the way, he’s wearing a swat team outfit,” teased E! host during an interview on the red carpet. “Please! Back up!” Williams fired back with a smile and didn’t miss a beat. Williams couldn’t have known it at the time, but his outfit would eventually become a staple in fashion-centric corners of the internet: these days, you can’t open Instagram or Twitter without seeing him in grail fashion while promoting a movie about bouncy goop. And while it would take some time for the public to appreciate Williams’ sartorial genius, we can now point to his embrace of this jacket—along with brands like Acronym, Visvim, and Bape—as wildly ahead of its time.
This particular jacket was from his Autumn-Winter 1996 collection; the design was based on the famous military MA-1, but supercharged with modular pockets on the front and a substantial rectangular one on the back. In the years that followed, this hyper-utilitarian aesthetic would appear on the runway again and again. Austrian designer Helmut Lang sent ballistic-style vests down the runway in a 1998 collection. In 2001, Raf Simons released the camouflage “Riot Riot Riot!” bomber. The previous widely seen as the inspiration for a standout piece from the first Yeezy season, while the latter is a rapper’s favorite commands a whopping $47,000 in the aftermarket. The Miyake jacket feels like it could be destined for a similar fate.