LONDON, United Kingdom — Japanese apparel giant Uniqlo is collaborating on a fashion collection with Tomas Maier, the creative director of Bottega Veneta and founder of his namesake label. He joins a roll call of leading industry insiders who have previously collaborated with the brand, including Jonathan Anderson, Jil Sander and Carine Roitfeld.
Speaking to BoF, Maier says that the collaboration, which includes womenswear, menswear and accessories, is rooted in a shared approach to fashion. “Uniqlo has always offered their customers affordability and a designer point of view — this is just about a moment in time of getting together.”
Set to launch in stores and online this summer, the accessibly priced collection was designed within the framework of Uniqlo’s LifeWear concept: clothing designed to enhance everyday life. “I appreciate minimalism, but I don’t consider myself to be [a minimalist],” says Maier, who hopes that the collection will appeal to “anyone who appreciates a casually thoughtful product.”
I appreciate minimalism, but I don’t consider myself to be one.
Maier is nothing if not an absolutist. At his own label, the designer focuses not on trends and advertising campaigns, but instead on developing a sophisticated but understated aesthetic. One can imagine a Uniqlo range that covers Maier’s refined style and use of natural materials, like fine cotton, linens and raffia — often evident in his collections — while maintaining Japanese functionality.
“LifeWear embodies our belief that individuality comes not from clothes, but the people wearing them. That’s why we devote our energies to create clothes that people will enjoy and value for a long time,” comments Yuki Katsuta, group senior vice president of fast retailing and head of global research and design at Uniqlo.
Uniqlo’s fashion collaborations have played a key role in enhancing its offering of low-cost clothing (often viewed as higher quality than its fast fashion competitors, like Zara and H&M), generating excitement and driving consumers into stores. Working with a mass-market company like Uniqlo, for Maier, meant “Sticking to the rules of manufacturing to make the product affordable. You have to be even more thoughtful as you’re addressing such a huge audience.”
A graduate of the Chambre Syndicale de la haute couture in Paris, Maier launched his namesake label in 1997, with business partner Andrew Preston, after working for fashion houses such as Hermès and Guy Laroche. In 2001, the designer was appointed creative director of Bottega Veneta, a Kering-owned, Italian fashion house best known for leather goods produced with an artisanal weaving process called intrecciato. Under Maier’s lead, Bottega Veneta passed $1 billion in sales in 2012, becoming Kering’s second-largest luxury label after Gucci and its fastest-growing.