Today I’m working with Uniqlo to kick off the new season by launching SS21 – Inès de La Fressange at Uniqlo. Like the first snowdrops, for me this shoot is always the sign of brighter times ahead and it feels particularly victorious to still be able to bring it to you this year despite the added hurdles that are impacting retailers everywhere. We’re slightly later than I hoped to be because the clothes samples only arrived at lunchtime today so this is truly hot off the press as we’ve just rushed back from putting them through their paces. If the clothes had come yesterday as scheduled I’d have been able to give you photographs full of spring sunshine but today you’ll see that’s bitterly cold, I have a red nose and there’s a brisk wind blowing so I’m having to hang on to my hair! However there was no way round it so I just you to use your imagination to push the outfits forward a season. The collection launched in the UK today, for US readers it will launch with you in March and in the meantime you can see the preview of your pieces here. And if you’re in Australia of course you’re heading towards Autumn so you’ll be getting the collection we had here last season today (February 18th) – you can find it here and my review of the best pieces, size and fit was here.

Before I talk to you about the particular pieces I picked out for SS21 though, let’s recap on the collection because there are quite a few new readers who may not have seen it before and it’s important to get into the Uniqlo mindset. Uniqlo have an ongoing focus on ‘Lifewear.’ They ignore trend and instead choose to collaborate with designers who have distinct and timeless looks, including Jil Sander, Christophe Lemaire, JW Anderson and Inès de La Fressange. These capsule collections are for people who have already developed a sense of their own easy style and are impervious to whatever fads are going on in fast fashion. They include classic, iconic pieces that the cognoscenti can add to their edited wardrobe. Like all retailers this season’s collection is an even tighter edit than usual and you will recognise the styles – but that’s the point. Stylish women know what works for them and so they often buy the same piece in several colours to augment their established look. And so that’s what you’ll find here, extras for Inès fans to add to their existing capsule. Because the clothes are good quality they last for years and each new season works with the palette and styles that came before.

It isn’t like anything else you’ll find on the UK high street and there are only two opportunities a year to buy into it and it will only be available for two or three weeks. It might not be a look that will blow you away the first time you see it but that’s because it’s designed for women who have the quiet confidence to let their clothes underpin the person they are rather than expect their outfit will do the talking for them. Each designer that Uniqlo collaborates with has their own focus. Inès believes in the marriage of style and comfort, she looks to create clothes that will flatter the lines of the female form but not cling. She uses simple fabrics because texture is far more important to her than pattern so you’ll find cottons and poplins, affordable silk, raw denim, linen and rayon.

The palettes work tonally together because she likes the concept of a capsule where everything works together so that getting dressed is easy. It strikes me as a particularly good option for SS21 which when we’ll no doubt be spending a lot of our time close to home with an aim to look pulled together but not overdressed. Anyway as this collection is a tight turnaround I’ll stop talking now because things tend to sell out fast and it’s been live since 7am today so some sizes are already out of stock. This time I decided to play with the neutrals palette at the warmer end of the scale and also the navy one because that always works so hard for my wardrobe.

Launching SS21 – Inès de La Fressange at Uniqlo

Neutrals choice

I love the various shades of milky coffee that chic European women wear in summer. My summer clothing budget is usually focused on bright beachy holidays but as that’s probably not going to be the case this year, it makes sense to look at more of a wardrobe for home and neutrals are tonal so they’re much easier to layer for lower temperatures than solid brights.

I’m hoping that at some point we’ll be able to dress up a bit to go out again, even if it is just locally so I was immediately drawn to this silk blouse. Silk is always a sassy choice for evenings because of the way it slips over your curves and of course it has a lustre that boosts your skintone in the same way as pearls, helping you to look radiant and healthy. In my view Uniqlo do the best silk on the high street, it feels luxurious and it has a proper sheen to it rather than a matte finish. It’s also available in ivory, pink or navy but this caramel shade is just beautiful. I’m wearing a size 12 and it’s true to size.

Nikki Garnett - Ines de La Fressange

Caramel silk blouse

The trousers are my first foray into this season’s looser cut; nylon has been blended in with the cotton so that they hang well and it gives them an unusual finish that you’ll either love or hate. They’ve been cut to Uniqlo’s ‘easy’ lines which means they have an elasticated panel at the back for comfort and to hug the small of your back. I’m wearing a medium and they’re true to size.

The cotton mac I like because it’s single breasted – I can’t get on with double breasted trenches, there’s just too much fabric flapping around for my liking but this has all of the effect of a trench in a slimmer summer cut. It would be easy to wear over a dress too and it’s also available in navy – the one thing I would say is do size down, I’ve tied it at the back with the belt so it’s hard to see from the photo but it is definitely a full size too big.

Nikki Garnett - IdLF at Uniqlo SS21

Cotton Mac; Silk blouse; Cotton blend easy trousers;

And the hat – well who can resist a panama? Sadly it was just too windy for it to stay on my head but here it is for your reference. This one comes in three different colours and has UV protection built in – I just need a less breezy day to keep it on!

Launching SS21 - Inès de La Fressange at Uniqlo

UV protective panama

Navy choice

Long lean denim utility jackets are going to be one of the season’s standout trends because they’re so wearable and such an easy way to instantly update your casual look. They’re the lockdown alternative to a blazer, easy to throw on and a shortcut to youthful chic. In the same way that just about every retailer has a pair of flares in their line-up, there’s also a denim utility jacket. I particularly like this one from Uniqlo because it’s a leaner cut than most that are around and the dressed down style is elevated by the detail of the slightly asymmetrical button placket. It’s also available in indigo but I opted for the off white purely because of its ‘go with everything’ aspect for summer.

The soft Supima cotton boatneck top was another easy choice. Its slimline fit means that it will work brilliantly tucked into wide leg trousers to balance proportions but it’s cut quite short to avoid adding bulk when worn with a high waist so it isn’t long enough to wear over jeans. The slashed boat neckline is particularly flattering, also available in black, white or yellow it’s a wardrobe staple – it’s a very neat fit so if in doubt, size up.

Launching SS21 - Inès de La Fressange at Uniqlo

Denim utility jacket; Supima cotton boatneck top; Wool blend tapered trousers

The trousers are Inès classics and a good alternative for anyone who feels swamped by a wide leg fit – they’re a balloon cut, wider to the knee and then tapering in to the ankle. They come in either a wool blend or cotton for a more casual look. I’ve chosen the wool blend here because I wanted a contrast of textures with the cotton jacket. I requested a size 30 rather than my usual 29inch because I was worried that they’d be tight as IdLF trousers often are, especially with the extra few lockdown pounds that I need to shake off but they were too big as you can see so go for your usual size.

Launching SS21 - Inès de La Fressange at Uniqlo

For a more casual look I’ve switched the top for a cotton jumper knitted using Uniqlo’s 3D technology which means the whole thing is created as a single piece with no seams in the same way that a top end cashmere jumper would be so it’s breton style with a difference. The trousers are the same as the last picture and I’ve added a cotton and nylon blend parka, the sort of jacket that’s good to keep rolled up in your bag when you’re out for a walk – also available in mid blue, navy or beige. Both the jacket and jumper are true to size.

Launching SS21 - Inès de La Fressange at Uniqlo

Cotton nylon parka; Cotton striped jumper; Wool blend trousers

Launching SS21 – Inès de La Fressange at Uniqlo – other pieces to look out for

I know you may be keen to go over to the site now and have a good look through yourself but there are just two other pieces I wanted to draw your attention to. The first is the skirt that sold out in minutes last Autumn so they’ve reissued it for spring but this time in black. It’s one you’ve seen me wear a lot and here’s a reminder of the subtle ombre effect it has. It’s one of the loveliest skirts I own and of course very easy to keep because you just screw it up and put it into a drawer to keep the creases in place. If, like me, you find that standard pleated skirts make you feel frumpy, you may find that this works for you because it’s more fluid and doesn’t stick out as rigidly as firm pleats do. Also available in cafe latte shades or ditsy florals.

Midlifechic navy outfit Uniqlo

Ombre crinkle skirt

Launching SS21 - Inès de La Fressange at Uniqlo

Ombre crinkle skirt

And finally this long tunic shirt which is of course great for anyone who’s a skinny jeans or leggings wearer but in my view its big moment comes on the beach, thrown over a bikini or swimsuit. It’s so much more stylish than a kaftan and it’s also available in navy blue. I’m going to order one and make it the first piece in my ‘soon’ box which is where I’m putting the things I’ll take whenever we go on holiday again.

Launching SS21 - Inès de La Fressange at Uniqlo

Long tunic shirt with placket detail

So with that I’ll leave you to shop, I’m always asked for my top recommendations and I’d say they’re the silk blouse and the denim jacket – both such strong pieces for SS21. You can find the full SS21 Inès de La Fressange at Uniqlo here.

Before you go though I just want to say the warmest of thank yous for the comments and stories that so many of you shared after last week’s post – they really do mean a lot both to me and to everyone else who has read them. It’s lovely that started by Sarah, a few of you were inspired to make a donation to Refuge too. I’m so pleased that something has come out of it that will help other women who may not have a strong pair of arms to support them. Enjoy your weekend, the first glimpse of spring is on its way and good times are ahead, we need to be patient for a bit longer but soon all of this will be a memory… like all the other difficult times we’ve lived through…

Disclosure: ‘Launching SS21 – Inès de La Fressange at Uniqlo’ was commissioned by Uniqlo but as always the outfit choices and comments on fit and the collection are my own

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