Uniqlo’s Mixer

Collaborations with forward-thinking designers have always kept Uniqlo a cut above a mere line of basics. T-shirts? Sure–here’s some, in every color. To-kill-for-drop-waist dresses by Jil Sander, priced almost the same? Next rack over. The latest to spin the label’s practical essentials are Japanese streetwear designer NIGO and French supermodel-turned-many-things Inès de la Fressange. Each designed one of the 11 mini-collections for Spring/Summer 2014 LifeWear, the name given to Uniqlo’s new offseason products. The moniker is meant to convey the trend-flouting wearability of the Japanese brand’s clothes.

Fressange, who mentions Uniqlo in her French woman style guide Parisian Chic, created airy blouses, blazers, and dresses, mostly blue with pinpricks of red, her favorite color. Begging to be worn on a sweltering summer day around Avenue Montaigne, the pieces have Fressanges’ touch, while staying true to Uniqlo’s versatility. “Inès was talking about Uniqlo apparel being like ballet shoes–they work with anything,” says design director Naoki Takizawa. “We’re in the age of mix-and-match, according to your mood and your personality.”

This seems to describe the leanings of NIGO, the first creative director of the label’s pop-culture themed graphic t-shirt line UT. Choosing images, the designer didn’t want to fall to the obvious. “I went to the Disney archive and researched,” says NIGO. “I know the Hello Kitty designer [Yuko Yamaguchi] and got them to draw exclusive images for the collection.” There is a Gremlin tee, too, depicting the grinning monster from Gremlins, a movie that NIGO always found “interesting.”

Also part of Spring/Summer 2014 LifeWear is Steteco & Releco, comprising patterned, loose pants emulating Japanese men’s undergarments, and Topics!, Hawaiian-wear updated for city dwellers. Uniqlo is launching AIRism, consisting of tight-fitting tops and pants meant to be worn under clothes. Joining Heattech and Ultra Light Down as the latest of Uniqlo’s hi-tech materials, AIRism is made with fabric specially designed to absorb sweat. The other categories include clothes made with linen and Supima cotton, jeans, business casual pants, polo shirts and tops with built-in bras.

The projects are varied, but rooted in simple ideas. “My goal is to design by peeling away excess,” says Takizawa. “It’s the ultimate fashion, because it doesn’t strive to be fashionable.”