Good fashion is beautiful. But good fashion is also practical. And that is, in a nutshell, what UNIQLO stands for.
For starters, this post is by no mean sponsored by UNIQLO nor by any representative of the Japanese brand. If we really had to point fingers they would be towards my natural attraction for it. And that of my friends.
I’ve got acquainted with UNIQLO when I lived in Japan as there was no French flagship yet at the time (they opened their first Parisian boutique when I was still there, actually). And I gotta admit that: it wasn’t love at first glance. For the teenager that I was, UNIQLO seemed very blah. Ok it was quality products, but it was all so simple. And in Japan, literally everyone wears it – and that’s not my lifestyle. BUT as we got to know each other better, we got closer and I ended up giving them a bit of my allowance. With no regret of any kind.
Today, having worked at the Paris flagship mentioned above (see how fate does the job) even for only a couple of months, I learned to love the brand even more, and to appreciate the long-lasting quality of its products. These jeans, I swear, are some of the best I’ve ever tried. And this love multiplied and grew, grew, grew, when Lemaire creative director Christophe Lemaire announced that he was not only going to do special jobs for the brand but also take seat as the creative director for the European collections !! Ok it’s old story, and I’m getting all excited but hey, that’s portraying how happy I was in that morning train when the news first hit me last year.
Dress: Uniqlo U by Lemaire
But I guess only fashion enthusiasts were excited. Uniqlo U – Lemaire’s exclusive collection – seems not to be popular amongst the regular Uniqlo clientele – at least in France. Judging by the speed at which prices go down both off and online, there appears to be a generational gap between the oversized, sometimes avant-garde cuts and shapes, and fabrics, of the U gear and the women and men who do their shopping there. As stated above, Uniqlo is known for being really classic, and that despite the efforts of the brand to attract a younger clientele (mostly through special collections inspired by popular culture headlines such as Beauty and the Beast and Star Wars). The uniform of the working woman and man, or of your friend’s mother. And wool track pants, judo dresses (like the one I’m wearing here) and other #coolkids apparel don’t appeal to them. They just won’t wear it.
Is marketing to blame here? The name of Lemaire does add prestige to the collection and, just like Raf Simons at Calvin Klein, it is a super excited news for fashion lovers (read: we can wear Lemaire’s creation at a relatively affordable price). But to others, it probably doesn’t ring a bell. Thus promoting the collection under his name is not even the right solution of this particular problem. What Uniqlo must do is to establish a dialogue with its regular, strongly implemented clientele to talk about the changes of the fashion environment of not only the street, but also the brand. When you browse the #uniqloU hashtag on Instagram, most contributors are from Japan, and you would assume that the popularity is tremendous there. But even on the Japanese site of Uniqlo, many of the items are offered at a relatively cheap price – discount festival. Is what could have been the stairway to success turning into a handicap?
This is certainly not stopping me. Each of my last visits to Paris meant for a Uniqlo (U) spree. I just love the brand, just love the collection, and this relationship is starting to get real loyal. And the afore mentioned friends, they just feel the same. How funny was it, on that shooting day, that I was wearing Uniqlo intentionally to capture that dress I had just acquired and that Jade came in the picture at the last minute also wearing Uniqlo? And that Loïc, the photographer behind these photos, was also wearing Uniqlo – the bomber jacket is his, by the way.
You don’t hear Zara or H&M shoppers feeling like they belong to something just because they wear the same brand. You hear that from Supreme shoppers, or from other streetwear brand lovers. And that only should stand as a proof that UNIQLO is redefining retail and fast-fashion into a movement based on individuality and collectivity at the same time : you feel different from the rest but similar to your peers. And that, my friend, is quite a tour de force.
Do you wear UNIQLO? Do you like the U collection? Or maybe you are totally unfamiliar with the brand and you’d like to know more? (or you’re also allowed to dislike it by the way).
Don’t forget to check Loïc’s Instagram out just here – he has the most amazing pictures, undoubtedly one of my favorite accounts. You can also follow me on my new Instagram page for more regular updates!