Jil Sander on Her New UNIQLO Collaboration That's All About Luxury and Protection
We spoke to the veteran designer about her newest collection with UNIQLO.
by : ELLE Canada- Nov 26th, 2021
Courtesy of UNIQLO Canada
As we slowly begin to re-enter society, making plans with friends and family and working through the anxiety we might face, feeling supporting and wearing pieces that we feel comfortable and confident in is crucial. Designer Jil Sander has been working with global brand UNIQLO, under the brand name +J, for 12 years, designing various collections that are unisex and versatile—being worn for any occasion. Earlier this month, the duo released their recent collection, closing out Chapter 2 of Sander and UNIQLO’s partnership. The collection is filled with pieces meant to be luxurious, comforting and protective. We spoke with Sander about her legacy collaboration with UNIQLO, how it’s grown she she started working with them and why she focused on protection and comfort when designing this collection.
How would you describe this new +J collection with UNIQLO?
Jil Sander: +J is like a laboratory of the future to me. I am trying to materialize what I feel about the reality around me. I hope to catch vibes, needs and desires and, accordingly, to design fresh appearances, which encourage us to feel renewed and in sync with the living moment. This winter’s collection features distinctive silhouettes, upcycled classics, sensual textures, an emphasis on value, luxurious tailoring, and proportions which respond to our new sense of comfort. It offers a sophisticated look to everyone.
What inspired the new collection?
Jil: I wanted to put a shine on life and express its preciousness. That’s why I worked with a slightly shimmering polyester satin. Our life starts all over again at the hopeful end of the pandemic. We feel sexier and appreciate a sensual feel and look in clothes. Thus, I lifted the quality of basic items onto another level and reworked them in a more luxurious, seductive way.
Why was it important for you to capture the idea of protection through oversized silhouettes in this collection?
Jil: We are still shaken from the pandemic and cautiously optimistic that we have mastered it. We return to social life, but we want to feel protected. Accordingly, the collection explores new oversize silhouettes with a controlled fit and variations of substantial winter classics like the pea coat and the military parka. Comfort has become dear to us; we want to feel our personal shell. This need is answered by luxurious trainer tops and pants from cozy cashmere wool flannel. The collection also includes a mix of knits, be it from superfine and 2-ply cashmere, cashmere blends or felted wool.
The pieces in your Chapter 1 collection with UNIQLO were unisex and minimal, but this collection feels more experimental. How did you experiment when designing for this new collection? Were there certain styles you had been wanting to try?
Jil: I like to attract interest in clothes in a more subtle way. I concentrate on sculpted forms and attractive silhouettes which are very visible, even from far away. And the materials and the workmanship, which go into +J design also speak to the eye. I avoid superfluous decorations which distract from the charisma of the wearer. +J wants to underline the value of a person with truly modern cuts. A good fit is equally important for sophistication.
Do you have a favourite piece from this collection that you’ll be sporting this winter?
Jil: I don’t really have favorites, but I am especially fond of the range of great coats we designed, of their timeless modernity, their statement quality, and the democratic prices we were able to ask, due to UNIQLO market power.
You’ve been working with UNIQLO for the past 12 years—what has that experience been like?
Jil: My +J project was to bring the quality and sophistication of my high fashion experience to a large audience and to offer attractive, modern uniforms to a widely connected, discerning urbane customer. The ambitious goal was to approach the people of today’s world, assist them through clothes in their self-assurance and in their readiness to engage in common goals. It was very rewarding and almost stupefying to me how UNIQLO managed to produce our very demanding collections on a global scale without a blink of the eye.
Were you nervous to be the first high fashion brand to work with the global retailer?
Jil: First of all, UNIQLO grew almost tenfold and became a truly international company with stores all over world. UNIQLO proved that it can shoulder the required output and keep its high standard. In 2009 already, UNIQLO had the know-how, the techniques, and the logistics to establish +J successfully, a line which is based on the highest quality, fabric research and fine craftsmanship. When we reactivated +J, the collections grew accordingly.
It made me very happy to reach so many customers in all parts of the world and to achieve the +J mission of providing a modern global uniform, offering value, smart understatement and carefully forged contemporary silhouettes. The UNIQLO team became even more professional over the years, from the beginning, it was extremely attentive and helpful in devising new ways of doing things. I feel a strong affinity to the Japanese culture and work ethics, to the love of quality and precision, the readiness to respond to demanding ideas, the urge to innovate and the willingness to experiment and start from zero, if needed.
This collection marks the end of Chapter 2—What are you looking forward to as you continue to work with UNIQLO?
Jil: I will remain very curious of [UNIQLO Founder and President] Mr. Yanai’s ideas, and I am confident that he will develop his world-embracing vision further. I want to thank him for his trust and our great collaboration, and I wish him good luck and all the best for his future endeavors. Now, we close a chapter, and I wonder what the future will look like.
Shop the newest +J Fall/Winter 2021 collection here.
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