Not So Unique At Uniqlo

 

After the merry-go-round of the past month’s fashion shows, with all their colour and noise, brilliance and bravado, it is customary to retreat with some relief to the relative normalcy of the high street, and to crave simplicity in quiet tailoring and seasonal staples.  Uniqlo is one such haven: a calm, ordered arena of basics and fail-safes, well-made and affordable.

The latest Jil Sander for Uniqlo collection, Uniqlo+J, which launches today, is the sort of high street/designer collaboration that sets the pulses of fashion editors, style journalists and general clothes-horses everywhere racing emphatically upwards.  Megastores such as Topshop, H & M and Gap are famed for their partnerships with elite fashion houses, and these limited edition collections are the subject of feverish countdowns, wild internet rumour, and tend to sell out in just a few short hours.

 The most recent installment of Uniqlo+J is bound up in the same sort of fanfare, but does it deliver?  Collectively, the clothes comprise a mood-board of the moment; a lesson in minimalism, they are understated in shape, in muted tones, referencing the season’s love affair with colour-blocking, utility wear and, um, beige.

Sander presents us with utilitarian workwear, in honest, no-nonsense colours and fabrics.  However, far from suggesting itself as a modern and clever uniform for daytime, as seen recently at Chloe and Celine, Uniqlo’s latest offering is surely too drab, sparse and insipid to constitute anyone’s wardrobe of choice?

These are pared-down basics; stern, unremittingly stripped-back, and eye-wateringly dull.  Super-sensible tweed and wool skirts are paired with an uninspiring parade of plainness; cable knits, coats and cardigans.  Woollen accessories are functional rather than directional, and generally come in a blurry ‘whatever’ shade of dire monochrome.  The colour palette of nudes, navy and grey is muddy, lacking the clarity and warmth of autumnal ochre, caramel and toffee, seen elsewhere all over the high street.

 There are so many boatnecks and funnel necks one would almost think there were some sort of steamship theme going on.  Alas, there is nothing ‘full steam ahead’ about this collection.  It resembles instead a shapeless mass slowly drifting into a drab horizon, blending indifferently with a slate-grey sea.  That, or a sinking ship…

This navy blazer, fluid and expressive in shape, is one of the few saving graces in an otherwise graceless tide of overwhelming mediocrity.

Sartorially, Uniqlo+J is a far cry from another collection that launched this week, Burberry’s ‘Winter Storm’ for A/W 10.  Lean, mean and much more magnetic, it hinges upon pieces of complex texture and craftsmanship, from plush quilted biker jackets to a thoroughly modern update of the classic and quintessential trench, in a shimmering oil-slick of patent black.

It is with a giddier impatience than ever that I look forward to November, for the grand unveiling of the stratospherically exciting Lanvin collection for H & M.  Here’s hoping for drama and theatrics, velvet and luxe satins, exquisite, deep-throated jewel tones and gorgeous embellishment courtesy of the great Alber Elbaz.  Just keep it as far removed as possible from the current Uniqlo collection, and I’ll be over the moon…

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