The fashion designer Issey Miyake, who died last week at the age of 84, will be remembered for many things. He made forward-looking clothes feel elegant and rebellious, and did it with ease. He was one of the first Japanese designers to show in Paris, and outfitted generations of creative types in pleated trousers and shirts. But one particular piece from his expansive catalog of work stands out. It’s a futuristic and utilitarian bomber from a 1996 collection, and it has built a feverish following in the twentysomething years since its debut.
You could argue that the legacy of this jacket began not on a fashion runway but on the red carpet, when the late Robin Williams wore it to the 1997 premiere of his film Flubber. It was a chilly November day, so wearing a heavier jacket wasn’t surprising. But wearing such an avant-garde design to the premiere of a children’s movie was bound to turn some heads. “Just stay out of his way; he’s wearing a swat team outfit,” teased the E! host during a red carpet interview. “Please! Back up!” Williams shot back, flashing a smile and not missing 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, one can’t open Instagram or Twitter without seeing him in grail fashion while promoting a movie about very bouncy goop. And while it’d take some time for the public to appreciate Williams’ sartorial genius, we can now point to his embrace of this jacket—alongside labels like Acronym, Visvim, and Bape—as wildly ahead of its time.
This particular jacket was from his fall-winter 1996 collection; the design was based on the famous military MA-1 but supercharged with modular pockets on the front and a sizable rectangular one on the back. In the years to follow, this hyper-utilitarian aesthetic would appear on the runway again and again. The Austrian designer Helmut Lang sent ballistic-styled vests down the runway in a 1998 collection. In 2001, Raf Simons released the camouflage “Riot Riot Riot!” bomber. The former is widely seen as the inspiration for a standout piece from the first Yeezy season, while the latter is a rapper’s favorite that commands a whopping $47,000 on the aftermarket. The Miyake jacket feels like it could be destined for a similar fate.