Uniqlo’s First Collaboration with Designer Showcases Clothing “Based on People Move”
When you think of Paris Fashion Week, what usually comes to mind are high fashion pieces that take clothing to an artistic level. What seldom comes to mind are the exterior pieces, the things you wear that are designed to function. But contrary to what many believe, outerwear is imbued with art, especially in the process of its construction.
This is exactly what Japanese fashion designer Yosuke Aizawa shows. With his label White Mountaineering, he has presented outerwear collections at Paris Fashion Week since 2016. Before launching his brand in 2006, Aizawa began his career in fashion by studying textiles at Tama Art University. Since then he has designed for a variety of foreign brands, infusing his love for the outdoors into everything he gets his hands on.
“My love of the outdoors came from my dad,” says the designer. “We would go fishing and camping, and on the way home, listening to the country music he loved. I have more memories of going with my father than with friends. The things he taught me are what made me who I am today, and I want to do the same for my own children. I want to create connections and ways of thinking that span generations.
Today, he brings this passion for the outdoors into his first collection in collaboration with Japanese retail brand Uniqlo. The brand’s Lifewear meets the designer’s outdoor aesthetic, with pieces playing on the theme of the family. Thus, to create “a common language for all” through clothing.
The collection includes nine items for men, women and children, including the brand’s Hybrid Down outerwear, double-zip front parkas, a unique design element from White Mountaineering and fleece imbibing a military vibe, among others. To learn more about the collection, Uniqlo shares with Manila Bulletin Lifestyle his conversation with Aizawa, giving us insight into his design process and the philosophies he follows when it comes to designing the collaboration line.
“Easy to move and comfortable to wear” is the key phrase of the collection. What details and design points did you focus on?
One of my beliefs about making clothes is that “people move”.
Even sitting in a chair, whether you are driving a car or walking, some joints are still bent. I don’t think human beings don’t stand up all the time.
Clothes that are difficult to move on or that stress me out are not what I’m looking for. Something that looks “cool” isn’t really trendy for me. I wanted the outerwear I made with Uniqlo to follow this same line. The focus should be on clothes that you even forget you are wearing. When creating patterns and designs, I considered ways to reduce stress around the sleeves and shoulders.
I have thought deeply about how I can apply the outdoor and sports details that I have cultivated over the years at White Mountaineering in Uniqlo, which are clothes that can be worn by diverse people and not limit to no one. I believe that the new Uniqlo clothes were born from the three-dimensional cut that I incorporated into this collection.
What message do you want to convey through this collection?
Working with various people for many years, I have felt that fashion is very important when it comes to facilitating communication. Of course, music and art are also important, but I think “clothing” is also established as a common language.
After making uniforms for a soccer team in Japan (Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo, which plays in the J1 soccer league), my twin sons became fans and wore these clothes to show their support. It made me want to join them and wear the uniform myself. There is something really fun about being able to dress like your kids. That is why I have made every effort to design the collection in such a way that children’s and adult clothing shares a common language. You might want to wear something like what your mom is wearing. Or maybe wear a color that contrasts with your dad’s. My hope is that the clothes will stimulate those conversations and strengthen the family bond, even a little. It’s a constant challenge as a parent, but I was able to make it happen with Uniqlo’s help.
White Mountaineering was even exhibited at Paris Fashion Week. What do you think are your strengths as a Japanese designer active abroad?
I think one of those strengths is the long established cultural value of fashion in Japan. I am 43 years old now and have seen various types of cultures take root and grow for as long as I can remember. The arena of Japan which was born from a cultural mix, including music and art, naturally strengthened my potential as a designer. It is interesting to see how this culture has spread around the world and has now become the norm. Characteristically, the Japanese attention to detail is also an advantage.
The Japanese culture of kimono and other textiles flourished a long time ago, and magnificent materials are still being developed in Japan today. I think the combination of technological aspects and cultural potential is one of the reasons why my work has been appreciated outside of Japan.
The world has changed dramatically during the coronavirus pandemic. What impact do you think this has had on fashion? Have there been any changes in your own designs?
There have clearly been major changes. More specifically, we were unable to parade at Paris Fashion Week and the work abroad was very limited. The impact on the design potential has been significant, but personally I try to think of it in a positive way. Modern society is a world that only allows people to move forward, and now we have the opportunity to pause and look within.
The same is true for the fashion cycle. Thinking has shifted from focusing on well-designed items or trendy items that will sell well, to questions that need to be considered by the designer, such as why they make clothes, why these items add value. happiness to people and what aspects of the future of clothing is right in front of our eyes. I also think we were able to reflect on the meaning of doing something new.
Before considering any of the key concepts of fashion design like doing something you feel happy with rather than something for others to see or focusing on items suitable for all occasions rather than conscious design , I think it’s a precious time to think about the joy of doing things.
What do you think of sustainability in fashion?
White Mountaineering strives to make clothes that can be worn for as long as possible, in part from a sustainability perspective. Uniqlo also has a system that allows customers to return purchased items that they no longer need to the store for recycling. It’s part of the “sustainability cycle” analogous to the idea of the workforce, but it doesn’t start until someone takes the first step. Reuse and recycling systems are still in development, but I think it’s a positive thing that one day my whole family and I can take away Uniqlo items that we no longer need, even pennies. – clothes I currently wear, or pieces from this current collection, in a Uniqlo store and place them in a recycling box. For these clothes, the future is bright.
The “Uniqlo and White Mountaineering” collaboration line will be in the Philippines on October 15, 2021.
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