Thursday January 24, 2013
Uniqlo's unique approach
By KEVIN TAN
Refreshing colours and prints are featured in the latest collection from a popular Japanese brand.
MADE for all – that has always been the philosophy for Uniqlo.
Founded in 1949, the popular Japanese brand has no plans for a drastic change anytime soon.
However, this doesn’t mean Uniqlo is any less unique. With its strong clout and presence as a unisex casual wear label, it has always showcased a combination of minimalism and vibrancy in its designs since the beginning.
Although each of Uniqlo’s collections is distinctive in its own way, there is an obvious flow in all of the designs.
“Creating clothes that people can mix and match on their own is what Uniqlo is all about,” said Naoki Takizawa, the company’s design director.
“As much as we would to like follow trends, we still want everyone to be able to wear Uniqlo,” added Takizawa in a recent media interview in Ginza, Tokyo.
For its Spring/Summer 2013 collection, Uniqlo is inspired by elements of nature. Takizawa said that the eccentric theme bears a strong organic and human element.
“Normally, when a designer looks for a creative direction, it may come from entertainment, art, music or something particular that happened in society,” he said.
Takizawa wanted to focus on people’s thoughts and their desires, which isn’t always easy to figure out.
Of tea and ice cream
He used daily life activities as a lead to identify colour concepts, such as a herb – shades of brown – which can represent a simple act of drinking tea.
“If you’re tired, sipping a cup of hot tea will help you relax. When you’re stressed, drinking tea is also good.”
This “earthy” pastel colour concept is featured in items like long sleeve linen shirts, three-quarter chinos, long skirts and even printed culottes.
To counter summer heat, blue – representing water – is also a colour concept in the products.
For denim, the range takes on a more solid, darker blue. This is the first time Uniqlo is releasing denim wear as a complete series, which consists of jackets, shirts, cardigans, jeans and blazers. They are expected to be hot items this season.
“When the weather is hot outside, you’d naturally want to drink some water, something cooling that refreshes you. So ‘aqua’ is the inspiration behind this colour concept,” explained Takizawa. “The varied shades of blue represent different kinds of water like the sea, river, rain and even mineral water. Meanwhile, white represents the colour of a bubble.”
Ice cream is another pivotal “ingredient” for Uniqlo this season.
“Gelato”, the Italian word for ice-cream, is used by Takizawa to explain the most colourful and youthful looking pieces in the collection.
Apart from the cooling sensation that an ice cream can give, Takizawa chose gelato as a colour concept because of its many enticing shades. Baby pink, light yellow, bittersweet orange and mint green are some of the colours on the shirts, cardigans and chequered items.
According to Takizawa, prints are the signature of this collection, with the introduction of new patterns in line with the themes chosen to express more enjoyment and a casual lifestyle. This includes dresses, which are released on a larger scale.
“We are releasing more dresses in this collection, featuring different designs, prints and patterns. I am expecting them to be a sell-out; the same goes for the denim series,” said Takizawa.
“Our dresses receive great response, especially when we infuse them with Heattech (Uniqlo’s fabric technology that helps provide greater warmth),” concurred Yukihiro Katsuta, the group senior vice president of research and development.
The popular Uniqlo Tee (UT) series is also back with more collaboration with brands such as Rhythmic Textile, MTV, Fender, Coca-Cola and Disney. Fans of the UT series can look forward to pocket Ts this season as well.
Achieving a balance
Uniqlo constantly thrives to overcome challenges in the fashion industry by offering the best to their customers by understanding what they want, instead of focusing on what the designers favour.
“We like to keep our designs simple, but not ‘basic’, because ‘basic’ may come off as ‘boring’,” explained Katsuta. “So we make our patterns or prints as interesting as possible while maintaining the concept of making simple clothing. This is what sets us apart from other fashion brands.”
To provide a deeper insight, Takizawa emphasised that Uniqlo products must not only look good, but they must be comfortable and useful.
“Sometimes, a design may ruin the apparel’s usefulness. For example, if a jacket looks good with two pockets but ends up confusing the customer (he may forget which pocket he placed his money in), then it might as well have just one pocket!”
He reiterated that there has to be a good balance between aesthetics and functionality when it comes to creating a good design.
“We do not ask people to fit into our clothing, but we tailor our clothing to fit them,” said Naoki Otama, the brand’s group executive vice president.
“As a brand, I don’t think we stand out much from the crowd, but what we want to do is to meet consumer needs.
“That is the challenge we face every day – making comfortable and useful clothing while keeping it sharp,” concluded Otama.
The Spring/Summer 2013 collection, priced between RM39.90 and RM169.90, is available at all Uniqlo stores. Uniqlo will also be opening a store in Queensbay Mall, Penang this March. For more information, visit uniqlo.com/my.