During the cab ride over to Uniqlo‘s store opening yesterday, I repeatedly told the driver that got us stuck in traffic how important it was that I make it to my destination on time. When I told him I was headed to Uniqlo to interview the creative team, he really stepped on it and went on about how much he loves the store and how affordable the prices are: he’s a big fan of the brand’s denim line. (I love nice, enthusiastic fashion talk with just about anyone who will listen!)
I arrived at the Fifth Avenue new space—Uniqlo’s largest retail store yet—sort of on time. After Lady Gaga‘s stylist and Uniqlo creative consultant Nicola Formichetti had a quick cigarette break, we both plopped down on a circular sofa and began saying how exhausted we were. This was the first time I’ve conducted an interview lying down, but I have to say it felt somewhat therapeutic—for both of us!
Why are you so tired?
I was shooting a Gaga video for the last three days.
Have you not slept?
You know when you’re excited about something you just keep going? So I went to the gym and did acupuncture. I’m really into Eastern medicine right now. There’s something to it. You see all of these Chinese ladies carrying such heavy things.
Naoki mentioned that he spoke to Jil Sander for an entire year before beginning the +J collaboration. Did you go through that long process?
It was really natural. We clicked right away. Uniqlo as a company has always developed new fabrics and is always trying to be innovative. The design is simple, so the fabric is important. We wanted to do something with the future in mind, and without being too style conscious. So we focus on fabric. My role is just to consult and direct on the simple active wear.
It seems a bit more fun and amped up?
Yeah. It’t not too focused on specific silhouettes. It’s a more broad range for different ages and styles. It’s active wear in general: Outerwear, gym wear. What’s really interesting is now we have this crazy fabrics. How to incorporate those fabrics into different kind of garments. We are using those fabrics to create a suit, a dress or a shirt so it’s not just sportswear. That’s what we’re working on at the moment. He [Naoki] is so great. He’s so passionate. And I’m like a kid and he’s like a kid. We can do it because we have such an amazing team around us that can direct us and support us. I was born in Japan, so for me, Uniqlo is a family brand. My granny used to wear Uniqlo. And my Italian dad wore Uniqlo. I wore Uniqlo, of course. But it wasn’t cool.
Why do you think it’s caught on so well here?
We started refining the classics they have.
And better fit?
Better fit and better fabric. The price range. The colors. We don’t want to dictate anyone and tell them what to wear. It’s not a season thing. Or a trend thing. It will last much longer. The whole minimalist style is very popular. We opened the Soho store five years ago and it still feels fresh. It feels positive. It doesn’t feel like you are buying something that’s been copied from someone else. Yes, we take inspiration from the world in general but it’s more about colors, what’s happening and what people need.
What inspires you right now?
Technology, at the moment. Uniqlo’s website designer is a genius. I could sit and look at the sites and the graphics for hours. Social networking inspires me a lot and how we are related and connected to each other. I went to China a few weeks ago and joined a Chinese version of twitter called Weibo. They’re not allowed to use Facebook and Twitter in China, so they have their own. I joined because I read Chinese. You start seeing all of these different styles. I thought I knew a lot but it completely opened my eyes. I go on Tumblr everyday and everyday I’m discovering something new form these digital words. I’ve been creating my mood boards digitally. And then I felt like I was missing something, so I’ve been buying books again and going to galleries. I also appreciate the physical thing in addition to the digital thing. The mixture of the physical world and the digital world inspires me right now. We can go into the digital world and never come back, but we live here.
What do you love most from the collection?
We provide amazing styling items, so you can mix it with your own clothing. I love to wear designer clothes mixed with vintage. I’m always wearing something Uniqlo. You don’t want to do head-to-toe anything, like a trying to hard fashion victim. I love heattech leggings. You have to buy it before it gets cold because it sells out.
I have to get that!
I tell my friends that they have to buy them.
Yes! I’ve found the solution to being warm this winter!
They really helped me last year. Something times I roll my pants up and show the different colored leggings underneath. It’s cute. For men and women—heattech is such a basic thing.
Does Lady Gaga wear Uniqlo?
She wore it during her performance at the VMAS. But, that wasn’t her it was Joe Calderone.
Right! Was it the white tee?
Yeah. Joe wears Uniqlo.
I thought that Joe was the best dressed person at the VMAS.
The suit was Brooks Brothers.
I love Brooks Brothers too. What are goals do you hope to accomplish while working with Uniqlo?
Uniqlo is very established in Japan and I want Americans to know about Uniqlo. Uniqlo doesn’t open a new shop every week. We are working on a fresh and clever way to expand. I want to see that the Innovation Project’s philosophy of innovating new fabrics will grow within the company. It’s so much fun working here.
If Uniqlo was an ice cream flavor what would it be?
Vanilla. Because it work with everything.
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