Uniqlo Shoots for the Basic

As New Yorkers know, for an easy, high style but low cost graphic T-shirt, Uniqlo is always a safe bet. A Japanese sensibility does the cotton basic well, and in the past the brand has stuck with recognizable themes like Manga, or last summer’s Basquiat collection, walking a fine line between American Apparel simplicity and those gregarious Canal Street hyper-prints. For 2010, the already straightforward staple gets even more so with emblazoned prints picked by curator Ken Miller, an author and former-editor-in-chief of Tokion. Dubbed “Function of Forms,” his selection of black-and-white photography forgoes Uniqlo’s typical colorful pallet for dramatic, but still functional, shades of gray.

When Miller published his book of snapshot photography, Shoot, and mounted a Tokyo exhibition for it last fall, he wasn’t thinking in monochrome. “The Uniqlo folks stopped by [our venue space] at PARCO Factory in Tokyo and really liked the show, so they asked me to do this shirt series. Funnily, the Shoot book and exhibition has a lot of really colorful work [with artists like Nan Goldin, Juergen Teller and Dash Snow], so doing the black-and-white series was a big change of pace.” Oscillating between classical and edgy, Miller’s series includes a stark, geometric landscape by Lee Friedlander, an experiment in negative space by Paul Schiek, and the subtle, faded atmosphere of Marianne Mueller. A homage to the tradition of photography and the dynamism of monochrome, Miller proves what the stylish already know: nothing will ever clash with black and white.