Speaking with Christophe Lemaire
UNIQLO U 2020 Spring & Summer collection has launched lifeWear essentials.
We had a chance to speak with Christophe Lemaire about the collection:
Can you explain what is Uniqlo U in your own words?
Elevated essentials, functionality and sense of ease. For myself and the Paris R&D team, when we started Uniqlo U we wanted to propose an elevated proposition, or something a little more experimental, a slightly more daring proposition of LifeWear. We very much wanted to be perceived or understood to be an extension of LifeWear. We made ours to be part of the values of the brand, which are clothes for every day and for everyone. Functionality and ease are very important. Of course because we have this background of Paris and Europe, and London too, we are looking to create a European vibe in the product offering. And we are trying to be as sophisticated as possible when designing affordable, necessary items to be worn daily. For us, a “good color” is not necessarily more expensive than a “bad color,” and a “good cut” is not necessarily more expensive than a “so-so cut.” There are many ways of improving an affordable product; this is our overall philosophy.
What is the value of LifeWear to you?
I come from a high-fashion background. And actually most of the team here in Paris does too. We learned a lot through this experience, through aesthetics, quality, and refinement. But I think we all share a desire to propose style and quality for everyone. We are very respectful of this democratic dimension of UNIQLO. And this is one thing we are very excited about with Uniqlo U; we wish to try to bring style, contemporariness and quality, but at a very affordable price. This is the strength of being the part of UNIQLO system, and to be able to reach that is a great achievement.
One important focus of this new collection is Denim, isn’t it?
Yes it was, absolutely.We have been looking for a new straight leg, a higher rise, proposing an alternative to the curved line we did before, which was the carrot fit line that proved to be very successful. But our role in the Paris R&D Center is to continue to explore new options, so this season for both men and women, we feel there is a need for a straighter leg, a new silhouette and a higher rise, again. In addition to the beautiful denim we worked on together with the LA team (the Jeans Innovation Center, JIC), we were also interested in cotton satin, which we proposed for the Trucker Jacket. This is a beautiful cotton satin that we can also call moleskin, but it is not brushed, available in very interesting colors. For women, we worked with cotton satin to propose a new style in the curved design, which has been very successful, and has patched pockets and details taken from a carpenter’s pants. For men we offer a four-pocket jacket in different washes of denim. And for women, we created a total look in one wash denim, with straight leg jeans and kind of a boxy men’s shirt in 6.5 ounces denim. Also, a dress in washed denim, slightly oversized; it’s a light denim, I think only 6 ounces. The idea here was to produce a full-range of denim and cotton satin products. Cotton satin is a classic material used in workwear, and so is denim. Therefore, together with the supplier we developed a superior quality cotton satin. The wonder of cotton satin is that it ages beautifully, and the more you wear it, the more it’ll achieve a specific patina or finish.
Can you talk about some of the unique details of the T-shirt collection?
There’s a lot to say about the details. In general, the T-shirt is an interesting exercise, because it seems like the items is always the same. Usually a T-shirt comes in a crew neck and with short sleeves, although sometimes long sleeves. We believe in the need to be extremely precise on the weight of the cotton, the way it’s knit and other details such as the finishing, volume and colors. So this is kind of a general statement we have in mind, and I have to say I work with a great team of designers and developers, who are extremely passionate every season about making the perfect T-shirt. This season we have a lighter jersey with a cool and dry touch. It’s a double-faced jersey with Supima Cotton on the outside and AIRism inside to allow for freshness and breathability, especially in hot weather. We applied the beautiful technique of AIRism and integrated it into a Uniqlo U product with a specific cut that is slightly loose. For women, we offer a series of loose cuts which were introduced last summer, but with a lighter jersey and the interlock and mercerized rib jersey.
Did the inspiration for this come from a travel look?
Yes, it definitely came from this idea of a female reporter who travels. For example, she can run in these pants, or move comfortably, or even dance, from an idea of liberating the movement. In our design we think about movement, about breathability and having a certain freedom. There’s also this idea of a travel suit and a new setup, but in a cut and sew item. So, trying to find this balance between something stylish, timeless, and elegant, but also that is easy and has a certain fluidity and comfort. It’s something we always try to achieve, this balance.
The men’s Blocktech coat is also an iconic item. Can you comment on the overall outerwear collection?
Well for us, good men’s outerwear has to first be functional. Of course, the Blocktech technique is amazing. There is also the need in the volume, in the details, and to be as authentic as possible – to be as faithful to the beauty of an original trench-coat and what makes a trench coat stylish. We don’t always want to be literal and reproduce exactly, say a military 1940s American Army trench coat, but we look at one and try to understand what makes it classic. The weight of the lapels, the positions of the pockets, the stitching, and the way the belt is designed. All of this is considered very precisely, and our design team spends a lot of time, sometimes with the approach of a maniac. But I think especially for Menswear we have to consider every single detail of the cut, and of course the choice of the material. I think it’s important to understand clothing history, for example, the history of military wear, workwear, and tailoring. We are passionate and obsessed in the Menswear team with the history of design, and to understand where it comes from. For this specific trench, we looked at the U.S. Army military trench, as well as the British RAF (Royal Air Force) version, etc., and we tried to make a good fusion of all this, while at the same time try to understand today’s consumer needs. It’s also important to sometimes be faithful to tradition, because there’s a reason why those pieces are so successful. For instance, one thing we are trying to promote is the fit. Maybe today it’s more and more understood, but sometimes there is kind of habit to take a classic piece and just make it slim, and just because you made it slim, it’s now “contemporary.” We don’t think so. Sometimes the room of the sleeves, the longer volume, or the bigger volume, is actually super stylish and can be contemporary. And this is in the fashion world today, this “room” that is a little bit more oversized.
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