Uniqlo masters the no-fuss, no-muss approach to fashion— without being boring
In a world brimming with chaos, clutter and overstimulation, there’s the Japanese way of life: that of rock gardens and steam baths; Marie Kondo’s singular method of attitude-altering organization; and home-grown fashion retailer Uniqlo, the country’s most famous minimalist export. And with the brand’s expansion into Canada last year (and a new Vancouver location set to open this fall), we’re about to get a big lesson in less is more.
Enter any Uniqlo store, even the 12-storey colossus in Tokyo’s Ginza shopping district, and you’ll get much of the same: neat piles of lightweight, pullover sweaters, entire walls dedicated to crisp white tees and culottes in slightly off-kilter cuts. Seems straightforward enough, but defining the brand and its design aesthetic is surprisingly difficult. According to creative director Naoki Takizawa, who came to the brand in 2011 from long-term stints at Issey Miyake and Helmut Lang, Uniqlo isn’t sportswear, casualwear or even a fashion brand, despite its regular collaborations with big-name industry players ( Jil Sander, Christophe Lemaire and soon-to-be partner, J.W. Anderson.) Takizawa believes that the Uniqlo concept resonates because of a shift he sees in consumers around the world. “These days, people want to look more low-key,” he says. “That way they can actually express their individuality.”
Enter LifeWear, Uniqlo’s philosophy of “simplicity, quality and longevity,” which acts as guiding design principle for every piece that lands on its floors. For the brand, asking, “Why do we get dressed?” and “Is it essential?” has meant forgoing trends as we know them and instead turning its attention to innovation. Take, for example, the brand’s HeatTech technology, a special fabric offering heat-retaining properties, which is woven into a variety of innerwear pieces like leggings and tank tops. Or the Ultra Light Down collection of paper-thin down jackets expertly layered on every man, woman and child on the streets of Tokyo.
Unlike other international transplants that struggle to understand their new surroundings, Uniqlo’s landing on our home turf actually makes sense. As Canadians, we define ourselves and our style in terms of practicality and restraint because at the end of the day, all we need to make a fashion statement is a pair of blue jeans and the perfect tee. “I’m trying to design for 1 million or 10 million people and attitudes are changing,” says Takizawa. “People want to use things every day.”
UNIQLO TOP, $50, JUMPSUIT, $50, TOP, $30, UNIQLO