There are many reasons we love Uniqlo, from its excellent Heat-Tech range (the chic, modern equivalent of a thermal vest) to its lovely socks and great shirts and knitwear. The Japanese casualwear retailer is also known for collaborating with respected fashion names, often those with a restrained, pared-back aesthetic that gels with Uniqlo’s back-to-basics style. Since the Uniqlo Designer Invitation Project was launched back in 2007, high-profile creatives from Alexander Wang to Jil Sander and Carine Roitfeld have been tapped for design partnerships.
The latest addition to the Uniqlo collaboration stable is no less exciting. Jonathan Anderson, who runs cult London-based brand J. W. Anderson and is creative director of Loewe, has started work on a collection for Uniqlo, it was announced on Wednesday.
The designer seems a natural fit for the high street brand. Rarely photographed out of a crew-neck jumper himself, he first made his name with his daytime knitwear – a Uniqlo speciality.
Anderson says that he sees teaming up with Uniqlo as a way of democratising fashion. His namesake line, while not as expensive as haute couture, is still out of reach for many fashion fans. (A pair of J.W. Anderson culottes, for example, could easily set you back over £500.)
“Collaborations are incredibly important in design,” he tells Business of Fashion. “When I think of Uniqlo, I think of things that are perfectly made, that people have spent a lot of time considering; it’s a difficult job, and I think Uniqlo do it very well.
“Working with Uniqlo is probably the most incredible template of democracy in fashion, and it’s nice that my design can be accessible to anyone, on all different levels.”
John C. Jay, president of global creative at Uniqlo’s parent company Fast Retailing, says that Anderson “is both a connoisseur of tradition and yet he defies tradition.
“The British tradition of dress – sweaters, trench coats – all of these things are very interesting to us,” he says. “So how do we take that essential and give it a fresh spin?”
“We need help with that, we need someone to develop it,” Jay continues. “And someone with [Anderson’s] eye and his talent, it’s extraordinary.”
While Uniqlo doesn’t consider itself a fashion brand per se, Jay says that designers like Anderson “help us redefine what a basic is. Let’s rethink that. That’s why we need their talent.”
Anderson, who was born in Northern Ireland and now lives in London, famously ensures that all J.W. Anderson’s clothes are made and sourced in Britain. Yuki Katsuta, head of research and design at Uniqlo and senior vice president of Fast Retailing, says that this focus on British tradition was part of what attracted them to the designer.
“Much of the clothing we wear today has a long history, and many styles originated from uniforms or work wear,” Katsuta says.
“The British Isles constitute a treasure house of such apparel, with duffle coats and fisherman’s sweaters being just two examples. In partnering with J.W. Anderson, one of Britain’s most innovative and creative brands, we will tap into traditions while pursuing progress in design and fabrics, to craft styles that are enduringly appealing.”
No word yet on when the J.W. Anderson x Uniqlo collection is likely to drop – but given that the designer’s 2012 collaboration with Topshop was a total sell-out, success seems guaranteed. See you in the queue…
Images: Rex Features