Tomorrow is the grand opening of Uniqlo’s New York flagship store at 53rd Street and 5th Avenue. NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg is cutting the ribbon himself on the gigantic space which, in addition to 89,000 square feet of Merino wool and inexpensive cashmere, will be home to Uniqlo's brand new tech-savvy collection of clothes, the Innovation Project. For our most recent issue, we caught up with designer Naoki Takizawa, who told us all about the exciting project.
Japanese designer Naoki Takizawa was in New York recently to launch a capsule collection he’s designed specifically for Uniqlo’s new 53rd Street location, which opens this October. He spent a few days holding court in a concrete conference room at the retailer’s downtown office, gamely doing press without the aid of a translator. Even if he had to handle questions and answers slowly, Takizawa preferred not to have a filter, flipping through the collection unhurriedly so as to explain every detail of his tech-savvy line. There’s a matte down coat with an almost imperceptible pocket hidden in the sleeve for your iPod, and a track jacket with a zipper designed to detach just like practical Adidas snap-pants.
As part of Uniqlo’s new Innovation Project, Takizawa’s collection uses sporty materials to create pieces that perform without sacrificing personal style. Takizawa, who’s best known for his artistry at Issey Miyake and Helmut Lang, admits that he had to let go of his designer’s eye a bit when working with technological fibers like Heattech and Drylux. “This is more like a scientist’s eye,” he says. “And a scientist is also a creator.” He wears this hat well, utilizing laser cutting over traditional methods because it makes for a cleaner line. A handsome shirt features tiny tubes that essentially vacuum perspiration to the outer surface, where it evaporates and leaves the wearer comfortably dry. Like something out of a James Bond movie, all of the clothes were tested for durability in a room that simulates extreme climates. Every garment has been carefully scrutinized, even down to the proper price point, keeping with Uniqlo’s affordability; you’re not going to pay Patagonia prices for Takizawa’s tech gear.
The line comes at a time when Japan is still feeling the after-effects from this year’s massive earthquake, primarily in the form of an energy crisis. Takizawa sees the potential of fabric technology to assist citizens’ everyday life, noting that the average worker still has to “wear dress shirts, so maybe it’s interesting to bring this system, the material, to [them].” He loves the idea of reaching every kind of person with these technologies, and working with a company like Uniqlo means his clothes will have a far reach. “I work with craftspeople everywhere,” he says. “So my target is global.” Thanks to universal simplicity and easy wearability, Takizawa’s point is, as always, crystal clear.
(Styled by Deidre Dyer, model Sarah Chavez.)