Uniqlo is set to release Christophe Lemaire’s debut collection as the new artistic director for the Japanese superbrand, affirming a relationship with the former creative director of Hermès that began in 2015 and produced two wildly popular collaborations.
Lemaire will preside over a hand-picked, fifteen-person staff at Uniqlo’s new R&D center in Paris. He brings four years of experience with high quality materials and craftsmanship at Hermès to the Japanese fast fashion giant. “The best of the most at the least — that’s how I think of it,” he told website Business of Fashion in a June 6 interview. “Japan has an amazing sense of precision and honesty in the quality.”
The partnership between Uniqlo and Lemaire is the latest in a string of marriages between fast fashion and couture. In 2011, Uniqlo unveiled a collection with Jil Sander. H&M has released collaborations with Lanvin, Kenzo and Karl Lagerfeld, as well as an ill-fated collab with Balmain in 2015 that was a commercial, if not aesthetic, success (lots of white blazers, lots of bejeweled biker jeans).
Lemaire’s debut collection promises more restraint than the unhappy Balmain-H&M marriage. Photos released by Uniqlo a little over a month ago reveal the simple coats and knitwear Lemaire’s known for. Creams, mustards and subdued blues predominate, and Lemaire once again shows his predilection for the mockneck.
“Our ambition is to fill the gap between what’s fashion and what’s ‘normal,’” he said in the Business of Fashion interview. “I know the word ‘normcore’ is overused, but there’s something about normality I find very interesting — how do you make it super normal but refined and cool and desirable?”