UNIQLO collaborations have been a foundation of the brand for over a decade. The discerning choice of collaborators taps into areas of pop culture, high fashion, and niche interest that makes covetable and rare designs accessible to everyone.
A contraction of “unique” and “clothing”, UNIQLO has its origins in 1984, when the company’s first store opened in Hiroshima, Japan. It has since become a fashion retail empire with over 1,300 stores worldwide and notable fans such as Robert Pattinson and Pharrell.
The Japanese label is most famous for its range of high-quality basics, UT graphic T-shirt line, heat-tech fabrics and as mentioned earlier, its countless collaborations. Whereas collabs between brands are announced more or less every day right now, UNIQLO collabs have been pioneering the joint creative process for years, and on that note, we’ve covered some of the strongest UNIQLO collaborations to date below.
UNIQLO tapped the iconic artwork from ’80s pop artist Keith Haring in 2007. The colorful designs naturally lent themselves to a range of T-shirts which can be seen above. In the ten years since this UNIQLO collab dropped, brands such as BAPE, Beams, NOAH, TOMS, Reebok, COMME des GARÇONS, OBEY and SENSEO have all released products featuring Haring’s socially-critical work. This just goes to show that UNIQLO are way ahead of the game here, tapping the New York artist well ahead of their high-fashion and streetwear competitors.
Dubbed “+J”, Jil Sanders’ 2009 UNIQLO collaboration was immensely popular, lasting for five seasons and later revived with a “Best of +J” line in 2014 and 2015. The typically minimalist collection contained about 100 pieces for women and about 40 for men including slim-fitting shirts, gilets, merino wool turtleneck sweaters, duffle coats, suit jackets and suit pants.
UNIQLO first collaborated with cult Japanese label UNDERCOVER in 2012. Together, they designed a range of fleece zip-up jackets, down insulator jackets, fur hooded jacket and blazers as seen above. Called ‘UU’, the collab between these two seemingly opposite labels also including a line of remixed Disney T-shirts too. Jun Takahashi posted on his blog about finding a creative meeting point with UNIQLO, “we had several discussions, as a result of which, an idea popped up simultaneously from both sides: “clothes for mom, dad and the children; clothes for the family. We had found our common ground.”
In 2014, long before luxury tracksuits were a thing, UNIQLO collabed with Russian-American designer Alexandre Plokhov for an avante-garde, yet affordable, collection called UNIQLO Urban Sweats. Referencing his position as the menswear designer for Helmut Lang, this collab was minimalist, mostly black, and with a subtle architectural edge.
Continuing a string of high-end collabs, UNIQLO hooked up with Christopher Lemaire, the former artistic director of Hermès for a luxury line of basics for FW15 and SS16. UNIQLO later appointed Lemaire as artistic director of a new a new research and development centre in Paris to build out the UNIQLO U diffusion line. He has since described UNIQLO as “everyday clothing that resonates with people worldwide”, which seems about right.
UNIQLO first tapped American pop artist KAWS in 2016 for a line of T-shirts featuring the artist’s morbid motifs of dead eyes and his Companion and BFF characters. UNIQLO linked with KAWS again a year later this time to bring in another collaborator, the classic Sunday comic strip ‘Peanuts’.
In 2017 UNIQLO turned to designer J.W. Anderson for a Spring 18 capsule; a collection of updated British heritage garments such as cable knits, highland tartans and rugby stripes. J.W. Anderson (known for his glittery Converse designs) is no stranger to working with other brands having collaborated with A$AP Rocky and Topshop in the past.
UNIQLO dropped a collection in collaboration with some of Japan’s most famous ramen restaurants earlier this year. Featuring restaurants Afuri, Ebisoba Ichigen, Menya Musashi, Setagaya, Ippudo, and Hokkaido Ramen Santouka, the T-shirts featured graphic bowls of ramen (as you might expect) as well as some of the restaurants’ logos and symbols.
At the beginning of 2018, UNIQLO linked with Tomas Maier, creative director of Bottega Veneta for a capsule that introduced Swimwear to UNIQLO’s ever-increasing roster of casual clothing. The super luxury designer said “I know the product well because I’ve experienced it personally”, showing that no-one is too “fashionable” to shop at UNIQLO.
UNIQLO paid tribute to American design virtuosos, Charles and Ray Eames, with a collaboration titled ‘SPRZ NY EAMES’ in March. The married couple’s designs have informed significant shifts in 21st century design – notably the Eames chair. UNIQLO released a range of geometric tees, slippers, shoals and accessories, and that Eames chair also got a shout-out too as a graphic print.
UNIQLO, always quick to pay homage to their national heritiage dropped a collaboration with one of Japan’s oldest paper studios, Karacho. The karakami paper practice traditionally involves hand-carved symbols and designs on whitebark magnolia, and for this capsule the Spring/Summer designs cropped up on pastel short-sleeve tees and shorts.
For its most recent collection UNIQLO tapped robotic, time-travelling feline Doraemon. The collection features designs from Japanese pop artist Takahashi Murakami, whose signature animated flowers can be seen along Doraemon on T-shirts as well as a plush toy. You can purchase the entire collection on their website and exclusively at Uniqlo’s 5th avenue location in NYC on Thursday, April 26.