Thursday, before the new Uniqlo Fifth Avenue store opened its doors, I met some very inspiring new Japanese friends, Innovation Project Designer Naoki Takizawa and Uniqlo designer Yuki Katsuta. Me, the guys, and our trusty translator got to talking about how different the New York consumer is, parting ways with Jil Sander, shopping at Naoki’s former employer, Bergdorf Goodman (he mostly wears Uniqlo now), and how excited we are about the new space. We’re talking 89,000 square feet of excitement. If all of New York should need to congregate in the same room—I vote that we do it here.
And speaking of New York, Naoki had some pretty complimentary things to say about us.
"The New York customer knows more about fashion that Japanese people," he remarked. "I may be wrong, but it seems that they know what they should wear for themselves. In Japan, a lot of customers move towards trends. If some strong messenger says to wear red—people wear red. As you know, [New Yorkers] have their own personal style."
I asked Naoki who inspires him. Without hesitation, he said: "Phoebe [Philo]! She’s a very inspirational designer right now." That makes perfect sense; they’re the high and low masters of minimalism! And designer Yuki Katsuta, who came to Uniqlo one year ago from Issey Miyaki, has a thing for the American classics (a man after my own heart).
"I like American casual wear, uniforms, working wear, Levis, Dugarees," he said. "I buy it for design inspiration—that history. Also, in America there’s a lot of interesting clothes from the past, like L.L. Bean."
When they’re not pouring over innovative fabric and designs, the duo is discussing Uniqlo’s next move. There’s a lot to think about! Naoki claims to have been in talks with Jil Sander for an entire year before beginning to work, which means a replacement for the +J line might take longer to configure than we’d hope.
"To tell you the truth, I’m always talking to other designers but I think the most important thing is that our philosophies match," says Naoki. I don’t care if he or she is famous or not. We really need to have the same philosophy between our company and the designers we work with. Once we meet someone—if we can share the same philosophy—we do it." So that means there’s room for an up-and-comer to join the team? "I will call you first!"
Be sure to check out the new Uniqlo collection in this very special new space at 666 Fifth Avenue.
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