8 November 2016

Uniqlo, Is That U?

Lambswool ribbed crewneck sweater: I like the heft of this sweater - it is best suited to colder days because it is very warm. The fit is slightly boxy, particularly because of the raglan sleeves, and I like that the neck is not too tight, but gives you that room to breath without revealing your t-shirt underneath. The bottom hem is tighter than I had anticipated though, so when sitting down it can often ride up, which shifts the whole sweater up because of the stiffness of the knit. Even so, this really is a steal for the price.

Oxford long sleeve shirt: I like the hidden buttons under each point of the collar because it gives this shirt a really clean look. The fit is on the larger size, so I think anybody in between sizes would definitely want to size down for a trimmer fit. I am however used to baggier Yohji sizing, so I feel perfectly comfortable with this, with the exception of the sleeves - I wish they were a touch longer. But then I am six foot and have never particularly had luck buying shirts from Uniqlo or Muji because the sleeves are too short for me. Having said that the Lemaire and Jil Sander collaborations did have that slight extra length. I would say that quality wise this is comparable to the older Uniqlo oxfords that I remember, so worth a look.

Cotton twill elasticated trousers: If you have junk in your trunk like yours truly, you may want to size up or avoid these all together. The waist has an integrated belt, but unfortunately no button or hook closure. This means that while the waist has a comfortable amount of space when I am wearing the trousers, I do have to do a little wiggle and hard pull just to get them past my bum. The gusseted crotch means they are comfortable in movement, but really the bother of pulling them up and down means that I am not sold on these. Plus the fabric is a lint magnet, so if you want these, I would avoid the black.

Uniqlo U sweater and trousers
Both size medium

I used to wear a lot of Uniqlo back in the days when they were collaborating with Jil Sander, and still think that J+ was one of the best collaborations fabric-wise to ever hit the high street. That was some five years ago. In the intervening years my only real experience with Uniqlo has been Heattech leggings for Winter, which seem to get thinner and flimsier year by year. I actually stopped wearing Uniqlo around the time of their aggressive marketing campaign in the UK, because as quickly as they expanded their stores and production, so fell their prices and quality - thinner fabrics, messy stitching, and generally poor quality when compared to the pieces I already owned from them. I remember in particular going to the Oxford Street store to try on sweaters and being rather put off at how much cheaper the new ones felt in comparison to the older version I was wearing at the time.

So I pretty much passed Uniqlo by for a number of years, until news was announced that they would be collaborating with Christophe Lemaire. I already own some mainline Lemaire that I really enjoy, so I thought that it would be interesting to give the collaboration a go. I was curious to see whether it might compare to the Jil Sander collaboration that I so loved, or failing that, hoped that it would at least equal the quality of the old Uniqlo that I remembered. I bought a collarless shirt from the first collection and a loose knit sweater from the second, and must say that I was thoroughly impressed with both. For the price they were very well made and the cut of both was, as expected, a slightly more basic version of mainline Lemaire. I really do hope they continue with the collaboration, because it was really nice for basics and general beater pieces.

Anyhow, after two seasons of collaborating, it was announced that Lemaire would be joining Uniqlo as artistic director. In this new role he worked with Uniqlo to launch a line called 'Uniqlo U', which hit stores last month. I curious to try Uniqlo U, because while I was impressed by the collaboration pieces, I was not sure what a non-collaboration line might entail. I assumed that that cuts and fabrics would be closer to standard Uniqlo, rather than those featured in Lemaire's collaboration collection, and thought that it might be a good way to reassess my view of Uniqlo. So once the line was launched I ordered three pieces that I was interested in - the ribbed lambswool crewneck in black, the white hidden-button oxford shirt in white, and the elasticated waist cotton twill trousers in black, all in size medium - to get a decent feel for the collection. Most opinions on the outerwear were rather underwhelming, so I avoided that entirely, but would be interested to hear whether anybody has any outerwear piece from the line that they enjoy.

Overall I think this collection was a nice reminder of what I used to enjoy about Uniqlo, but now what was once their standard quality is being packaged and sold as premium quality. Having said that, the price is still decent given the increases in materials and manufacturing costs over the years, so I would definitely pick up something from this line before looking towards the rest of Uniqlo's offerings. I am hoping that Christophe Lemaire has a hand in the wider design scheme at Uniqlo, because it would be great to see them making improvements across the board. I think that this collection was a nice start though given the constraints within which he no doubt had to work, as opposed to a full Lemaire brand collaboration, so I will be interested to see what the next drop brings. A half decent lambswool v-neck cardigan please, the basic Uniqlo ones could do with an upgrade.


1 comment:

  1. You got my curiosity up about the Uniqlo U range from this post, and so I finally went in today to have a look. Alas, the collection is drawing to an end here in Melbourne, so most everything was either too big or too small.

    I did, however, manage to try the elasticated trousers, which was really what I mostly wanted to try anyway. Oh gosh, they're fantastic! I also have junk in the trunk, but I found that these pants visually reduced it quite considerably (compared to Muji or Cos chinos). It also fit my legs perfectly, which I find to be odd—their chinos are a terrible fit for my legs.

    I ignored your advice, and bought two pairs in black, as everything is on sale at a considerable mark down. I'm looking forward to giving them a spin tomorrow. I only wish that the lambswool ribbed crew neck sweater had still been available. Alas! I can't thank you enough for writing about them.