Uniqlo and Lemaire: Retail wizard meets king of casual cool

Christophe Lemaire for Uniqlo U

Christophe Lemaire for Uniqlo U

Lacoste, then Hermès and now… Uniqlo. Maybe a few years ago that wouldn’t have been a great career path but Uniqlo has much-deserved ambitions to become the global number one and  Christophe Lemaire is one of the best of a clutch designers who really know how to combine fashion with the ultra casual and commercial.

So it’s no surprise that Uniqlo has named Lemaire as artistic director and head of its Paris R&D centre working on the Uniqlo U line of “elevated basics’. The news broke in the Business of Fashion yesterday.

Of course, Uniqlo isn’t exactly taking a leap in the dark here. The Fast Retailing-owned Japanese giant has already launched two limited edition collections with Lemaire and their fast sell-through proved that the two make a powerful combination.

It may seem a stark contrast, but Lemaire, who’ll continue to produce his signature line with his partner Sarah-Linh Tran, will unveil the first Uniqlo U collection during couture week in Paris.

So just as the world is watching the most exclusive and expensive fashion, we’ll also see some of the most affordable and unexclusive looks: far from being a limited edition collection, this one will be available in all Uniqlo stores later this year.

It’s an interesting move for Uniqlo as it goes much deeper than many collaborations with big name designers. And while some retailers have taken on a big name to try to transform ailing design credentials (Gap springs to mind here), Uniqlo is certainly not in that position.

In fact, it’s one of the most successful retailers in the world with a reputation for offering volume ‘basics’ that have a cut and a quality many others would envy. It’s also known for its innovation with Heat Tech and Airism both proving hugely successful.

I’ll watch this one with interest.

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