Uniqlo loves letters of the alphabet for its branding. The letter U is especially appealing to them, not just because, we suspect, it stands for the brand, but also because it sounds like and is often used in place of ‘you’. Its latest sub-brand Uniqlo U follows the tradition first seen in the T-shirt line UT and later, the 2012 collaboration with Undercover, UU. True to its Lifewear approach to design and merchandising, the latest collection is positioned to appeal to many of you.
What is, perhaps, even more appealing is that Uniqlo U will be headed by Christophe Lemaire, who just two seasons ago began a collaborative line with the Japanese retail giant. To be sure, this is not another ad-hoc pairing. Mr Lemaire is permanently installed as overseer of the newly-created label (he still gets to design is own name-sake brand, which is done jointly with his life partner Sarah-Linh Tran). According to the media release issued by Uniqlo, this is an “appointment of Christophe Lemaire as Artistic Director of the newly established UNIQLO Paris R&D Center and the new Uniqlo U line.”
Christophe Lemaire, centre, with his Paris-based design team
For fashion folk quite enamoured with both brands’ “elevated basics”, Mr Lemaire and Uniqlo are a natural fit. His two-season collection for the Japanese fast fashion brand was considered the most desirable after Jil Sander’s four-season venture (also marketed under a one-letter brand, +J). Mr Lemaire is, of course, no stranger to mass market labels, having served as CD at Lacoste for ten years. His previous position at Hermès, before resuscitating his eponymous label, meant that he is a designer that is comfortable with handling both ends of the market. This appointment may be rather unusual among fast fashion labels but not at Uniqlo, where the current design director Naoki Takizawa formerly helmed Issey Miyake.
Uniqlo’s headquartering of the newly formed R&D centre in Paris is also an interesting move. We are tempted to speculate that, in its quest to be the world’s biggest fashion brand by 2020 with a target of US$50 billion a year, it needs an Euro-centric aesthetic. If Paris is still where brands believe fashion truly bubbles, a base in the city is well placed and Mr Lemaire well appointed. It’s also note-worthy that in Mr Lemaire’s design team of 14 for Uniqlo U, seven are Asians. And they’re all there alongside the artistic director in the publicity photo distributed to the media. Perhaps this is the spirit of U. No one man takes all the credit.
Uniqlo U will be launched in the autumn/winter 2016/17 season. Watch this space for actual dates. Photos: Uniqlo