So many of you have mentioned your newfound love of Uniqlo in the comments recently that I thought it was time to have a look at them in more depth. Rather than focusing on a particular range like IdLF, this time I thought I’d examine their specific strengths. Before we start, I should say that this post is in collaboration with them and they kindly sent me the products I wanted to try however it is an independent review.
I’ve worked with Uniqlo for a few years now and I find them to be a quiet brand. Their primary focus is always on improving their products and as a result, they tend to forget to shout about them. This means that by default they’re a ‘cognoscenti’ brand – you either know them or you don’t and because they currently only have stores in London, there are swathes of people in the UK who have no relationship with them. This will start to change soon though as in addition to launching a new London shop, they’re opening a store in Manchester any time now. It feels typical of Uniqlo who always do retail differently to the rest of the high street; just as other groups are frantically closing bricks and mortar stores, Uniqlo are tentatively opening more.
I find their merchandising model fascinating. In addition to their own core areas of excellence they run regular collaborations with other brands and designers. These collabs are lean and fast, enabling them to target a completely different consumer group every two weeks. By operating the collaborations in silos with little crossover, there is minimal risk of alienating anyone. The one we know best of course is the Inès de La Fressange line, however they work with a diverse mix ranging from Disney to Jil Sander. If you’ve ever worked with Disney, you’ll know how impossible they are to satisfy, they’re every bit as demanding as the high brow designers who are always happy to work with Uniqlo because they trust their attention to detail.
Of course this strategy of producing limited quantities in collaborations that turn over quickly enables Uniqlo always to have something new on offer and thereby satisfy the thirst of their outstandingly broad audience. The drawback is that it can be frustrating if you miss a collection launch because everything sells so fast. I think another issue is that Uniqlo can fall off your radar as a consumer; I often forget to look there if there isn’t a particular collaboration that appeals to me. And that’s a shame because Uniqlo’s own label seasonal collections consist of excellent core wardrobe pieces – so that’s what I want to look at today. Before I start though, I’m just going to recap on what you’ll find.
Their merchandise scope is easiest to understand if you look at it this way:
- general own brand merchandise
- third party collaborations
- the UT graphic print collection
Within their general own brand mix, they have particular category specialisms. Denim is a year-round centre of excellence. The Winter season is plotted around Down, Cashmere, Merino and HeatTech. Summer hero areas include linen, Supima cotton, Airism and Bra Top products. So today I’m doing a try-on of some of these own brand summer specials. Let me show you what caught my eye.
Uniqlo trying-on session SS19
Outfit 1 – linen summer dress
I was really pleased when I saw this dress on the site. I have a very similar one that I bought from the IdLF collection a few years ago and I’m always asked where it’s from. This is the kind of dress that you throw on on a warm day and it just works. In my pictures you’ll see I’ve tied the belt at the back, on the website they tie it at the front. The good thing is that there are no belt hooks so you can position it at the best point on your waist or wear the dress loose if you prefer.
It’s made from a midweight linen that doesn’t crease too badly and it has pockets. I’m wearing the medium and it’s true to size.
I was hoping they’d send it in black because there’s something very Audrey Hepburn about the neckline. I don’t wear black very often but I do like it in summer when I have a bit more of a tan than I do at the moment so I’ll probably buy one now. And so in my opinion, this dress is an example of the perfect simplicity of Uniqlo’s own ranges – it’s good quality fabric made from natural fibres, well designed and a great price.
Outfit 2 – linen shirt, t-shirt and jeans
Moving on to jeans. I originally wanted to show you the ones from the Hana Tajima collaboration (see below) because they’re so unusual but unfortunately they’d sold out in my size (although they’re back in now and I’ve ordered them). However, I can just imagine these being great smart jeans for work / working from home. I like the lack of bulk at the waistline which gives them a streamlined look and I can imagine they’d work especially well if you’re petite. Anyway, if you want to try them, don’t dither because stock is low. I do question why they only go up to a size 29 inch waist though – a small size 12 doesn’t seem like a fair place to end your range.
So, as I couldn’t try those, I opted for the high rise straight jeans instead. To recap on January’s capsule wardrobe series, high rise jeans make your legs look longer but they’re hard to find. This pair contains 2% spandex and yet the denim is stiff Japanese style and so they’re bang on trend for the vintage Levi’s 501 look that’s so popular at the moment.
As you can probably tell, I’ve tucked them under at the bottom because they were full length and I wanted them to hit my ankle. Don’t forget that if you have a Uniqlo store nearby, you qualify for free alterations (details here). The best thing to do is order them to try first so that you can get the right fit and then take them in with your receipt. I’m wearing my usual size 29 inch here and they’re perhaps a little bit big – I’d like to try them in a 28.
Moving onto the shirt, I sometimes find the colours that Uniqlo produce can be a bit disappointing, especially in their winter down and cashmere. The palette for the linens and t-shirts this year is lovely though. Both of the pieces I’m wearing here are a size Medium and they’re true to size. The shirt is crisp, premium linen, the kind that will wash well, becoming softer and softer for that vintage look. When it does, I imagine wearing it on a warm summer day without a t-shirt, knotted at the waist.
Here’s a closer view of the t-shirt which is from Uniqlo’s pop culture UT range where they produce quirky t-shirts with a wide range of well known graphic designers and artists. Mr MC and the boys particularly love the UT collections and you never know what’s coming up next. At the moment the choice is endless including Studio Sanderson, Mickey Mouse, Eames, Peanuts, Warhol, Snoopy and Keith Haring. The one I’m wearing is a Sanrio t-shirt.
I picked it primarily for the colour but I like the quirky graphic which makes it a bit more interesting than a plain tee.
Outfit 3 – Activewear
The middle son has me on a gruelling, four times a week gym régime at the moment so I need a lot of sports kit. When I’m working from home it’s often just easiest to wear it all day so that we can head off as soon as he gets home. All of my gym kit is black and I’m sick of it so this makes a nice change. The hoodie is really good heavy cotton – not the sort of thing that you’d run in but great for wearing on your way to the gym. It’s amazing quality for the price (I’m wearing a medium). The leggings are from the breathable and sweat-wicking Airism range and I can tell they’re going to be a godsend when the weather is a bit warmer and I’m doing my Kettlebell classes. The medium is TTS.
They’ve really worked on the technology since I last tried one of the Bra Top pieces and the camisole gives brilliant support to the bust. Forgive the mad looking photo but it was bitterly cold and so unzipping the jacket felt a bit like plunging into an ice pool.
I have to say I wouldn’t wear it on its own because being purposely designed to be thin, the fabric is a bit unforgiving around the midriff so for me it’s definitely an underlayer or a supportive top for wearing in bed. I’d like to try one of the cotton modal Bra Top dresses though because I can imagine they’d be great on holiday when you feel too hot for a bra.
Outfit 4 – wide leg cropped denim and blouse
I’ve saved my ‘sparking joy’ moment to last. It isn’t often that I put something on and absolutely love it but these jeans were a real surprise. I’ve been planning my wardrobe very carefully for summer and white or cream wide leg crops were high on my list. These are a size 29 and they fit me like a glove. They’re exactly the shape and structure I’ve been looking for. They’re neat on the hips with no added bulk and the legs aren’t too wide, they’re also stiff enough to hang well. The hem is unfinished but that’s an element of distressing that doesn’t bother me. These jeans will work hard – with blouses or shirts for work and with a t-shirt at the weekend so they tick the ‘at least 30 wears’ box.
The soft cotton navy shirt was one of the late additions to the Inès de La Fressange range. It has a flattering open collar and skims the body without clinging plus it’s now in the sale. I’m wearing a medium and it’s true to size.
So, I hope that’s given you a little more insight into the ‘quiet’ brand. Uniqlo has always been one of my favourite places to shop because it doesn’t target a specific age, income bracket or lifestyle which makes it inclusive and I prefer inclusivity to exclusivity. It also has good environmental policies and is working hard to improve any areas that need picking up. The quality is excellent, there is a focus on natural fibres and the fit has been adapted for a Western frame over the last 18 months – almost every piece now fits me as it should. The website can be tricky but they’re working all the time to improve it and I believe that if they sort that out and also continue to open bricks and mortar stores, they’re going to be giving high street stalwarts such as M&S a run for their money.
Disclosure: ‘Uniqlo trying-on session SS19’ was commissioned by Uniqlo but it is unedited and all thoughts, clothing choices and lifestyle pictures are my own
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