In the realm of affordable and sophisticated wardrobe staples, Japanese retailer Uniqlo reigns supreme with its Uniqlo U line designed with Christophe Lemaire—the artistic director of its Paris R&D Centre. Since launching Uniqlo U in 2016, Lemaire has brought over his keen sense of understated elegance each season through the use of neutral colour palettes, relaxed cuts and refined separates usually seen at his eponymous label.
For the Uniqlo U spring/summer 2022 collection, Lemaire interpreted the concept of motion and lightness through fashion. The result? A collection of essentials that provide ease of movement and flexibility in spacious, pared-back silhouettes in shades of warm neutrals, olives, sunset-tinted sand and taro purple—Uniqlo’s take on Very Peri, the Pantone colour of the year.
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Expect reimagined classics in breezy, layered silhouettes as well as garment-dyed denim and overshirts for women; men can look forward to crisp jackets, relaxed cuts and striped summer shirts. The lineup also offers oversized garments for kids, providing room for growth.
Ahead, Christophe Lemaire talks about the concept behind the Uniqlo U spring/summer 2022 collection, what he loves most in this collection and more.
Tell us about your concept for this collection.
The concept of the Uniqlo U line remains the same, which is about creating functional, universal and essential pieces that free movement and are designed to last and bring solutions to everyday life. It’s also inline with the concept of Uniqlo which is LifeWear. There isn’t a new concept per se, just different vibes season after season. This season was very much about creating better fabrics, and trying to bring a fresh twist to wardrobe essentials.
What is the philosophy employed in this season’s lineup?
The philosophy behind Uniqlo U (and Uniqlo in general) is relevant now more than ever, which is to design good clothes that are utilitarian and desirable that last a long time, as well as pieces that consumers will want to keep. Today, everyone is realising that we don’t need so many clothes or objects around us. Rather, we need the right ones, which is what we’re trying to accomplish.
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Tell us more about the colour choices for this season.
We attempted to create colours that could be easily mixed-and-matched without being too loud. It’s really about subtlety and trying to find interesting neutrals that are as refined as possible. So it’s very much about coloured neutrals, sage green, sand and faded sunsets, but also highlights of bright orange and vermillion. And as always, shades of black, charcoal, white and whites with a little bit of green in them.
What do you love most about this collection?
There’s a very thin line between basic and boring design, which is what Uniqlo is all about—creating essentials with a point of view. We care a lot about being very specific little details that make all the difference—such as size, colour, design and volume of the sleeves and choosing from fifty shades of beige. For this collection, we worked mostly on the volume of the sleeves. For example, if you look carefully at the volume of the blouson or the kimono-sleeved t-shirt and t-shirt dresses, you’ll see what we mean when we say that essentials can still have character.
Tell us more about what goes on at the atelier when designing each collection.
I very much believe in teamwork. Designing clothes is always a complex process both in timing and industrialising a design, which requires a lot of attention. Designing a collection with the idea of trying to make super simple essentials with character—or with a point of view—is not easy. It requires energy, thoughts and exchanges from everyone. That is what we’re trying to do here and I’m very honoured to work with a great team here in France as well as with the Japan and US teams.
This collection seems to be perfect for an urbanite, commuting to and from places. What’s your commute to work like?
My commuting habits have changed. Recently in cities like Paris, there’s been a big transformation in the way we commute with more people in favour of doing so with bicycles. I also bike to work because at the end of the day, it’s much easier to go from one place to another. It’s also quicker and healthier. We kept this in mind when designing the collection. For instance, we tried to design practical bags, and different coats with side slits that aren’t too long with hoods and other protective elements in anticipation of unfortunate weather and chilly days.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.