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Fashion

Something Big Is Brewing Over At Uniqlo

It's made its name as a top Japanese brand for affordable casual basics - but how is it changing the game and the retail scene here? We find out.
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In Carine Roitfeld’s F/W ’16 collection with Uniqlo: Plush leopard print faux fur stoles and coats alongside knitwear and suits.

With a total of 25 stores in Singapore since debuting here eight years ago, Japanese casual wear brand Uniqlo has enjoyed phenomenal growth and success here. It’s also partnered fashion icons like Carine Roitfeld, Ines de la Fressange and Christophe Lemaire for one hit collaboration after another. But what’s next for the brand that seems to have “done it all”?

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For starters, it’s not stopping its expansion here anytime soon, with the first Southeast Asian flagship opening September 2 at Orchard Central. Spanning three levels, the 29,000 sq ft space will carry the brand’s full assortment of LifeWear (what they term as “clothing that’s universal in design and comfort, and made for anyone, anywhere”).

Like the brand’s flagship in Ginza, Tokyo, this will house 350 in-store mannequins alongside close to 300 digital displays scattered across the floors. The latter is just one of the platforms Uniqlo is using to tap on local creatives for everything from video content to music, curated retail spaces and even merchandise like tote bags.

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The other way Uniqlo is stepping up its game: By appointing Christophe Lemaire (above) its Artistic Director of their Paris R&D Center and the new Uniqlo U line, touted as a range that will feature innovative techniques while retaining the brand’s LifeWear philosophy.

Formerly at Lacoste and Hermes, the French designer is best known for designs that are pared-down and quietly sophisticated. And while news of his appointment may have surprised many industry insiders, it’s a smart move to make on Uniqlo’s part, considering that pieces from his two collaborations with Uniqlo sold out in no time.

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The Uniqlo U range launched in Paris last month, and will launch globally between late September to early October 2016.

Last Friday, I had the chance to view Lemaire’s Uniqlo U range – slated to launch here next month – at the brand’s Fall/Winter ’16 presentation in Singapore. While its Fall designs – parkas, sweaters, puffy down jackets – look decidedly similar to existing pieces from Uniqlo’s main line, I am assured that there are differences that, well, make a world of difference. For example, the silhouette of an oversized sweater has been purposefully cut to be wider on top and narrower below so it falls more naturally on its wearer. Everything, too, comes in pleasing, solid-coloured hues that are great for mixing and matching – another reason why Uniqlo items appeal so much.

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Uniqlo’s LifeWear F/W ’16 collection makes layering effortless.

What’s obvious is that Uniqlo has mastered a delicate balance in today’s challenging retail scene: By being available almost everywhere, it’s ensured shoppers ready access to its suite of wardrobe staples, while injecting freshness – and generating buzz – through high-profile collaborations.

But don’t mistake it as a fast fashion connoisseur; on the contrary, its mission is to make people keep their purchases for life. Says John C Jay, President and Global Creative of Uniqlo’s parent company Fast Retailing Co.: “We are not about changing trends, but about making clothes affordable and non-disposable. We want you to keep that favourite sweater for many years to come.”

 

Like this? See why ugly is the new look to have in fashion, and check out streetstyle looks that offer great layering inspiration.