Ever since Uniqlo’s launch of its Uniqlo Designer Innovation Project back in 2007, the brand has been debuting collaborative lines with an array of talented designers, like Jil Sander, Opening Ceremony, Theory, Christophe Lemaire, Pharrell Williams, KAWS, and Carine Roitfeld. A new season of partnerships tends to bring new ideas and new materials—and for Uniqlo, that certainly means new concepts, too.
For this season’s collection, Uniqlo welcomed UK fashion designer and writer Hana Tajima to present a collection in the U.S. After a whirlwind of a wildly successful collaboration in Southeast Asia last year, Uniqlo has welcomed her back once again, and this time, integrated in to the American market. The innovative spring/summer 2016 collection is now exclusively available at Uniqlo’s 5th Avenue location and online.
“We are thrilled to introduce the Uniqlo x Hana Tajima collection to the U.S. market,” said Hiroshi Taki, Uniqlo USA CEO. “The collaboration connects Hana’s personal style of modest fashion with our LifeWear concept of enhancing people’s lives through clothing, including those who value modest wear. Every item from this collection is designed with quality, comfort, and style in mind.”
After growing up with artists as parents, gaining influence from her Japanese roots and English upbringing, and converting to the Islamic religion when she was 17, Tajima wanted to stay true to her religion, but stay keen to her personal sense of style. She started her own clothing label, and in order to see if others were interested in a similar aesthetic, blogged about it. All the while, she was figuring out her own style.
“It’s been a really interesting process,” she told us. “When I first converted, I started to adopt clothing from other cultures. I had some Bengali friends and they would give me their [head scarves], I had some Arab friends and why would give me their abayas—but it didn’t feel like me. So it was about trying to interpret that for myself, and realizing that that’s fine, and it’s all about self-expression, which is really positive.”
For this lightweight collection, Uniqlo used its quick-drying AIRism materials—all of which play big roles in Tajima’s line. The collection features the gorgeous, innovative materials in unique cuts and vibrant prints, providing both casual and formal pieces. Contemporary looks like flowing skirts and tapered ankle trousers are seen amongst more traditional pieces like a hijab headscarf and the blouse-dress once piece, the kebaya—a commonly worn piece by women in Southeast Asia. Many of the prints match, and light solid shades are consistent and complementary. A few favorites of the designer? “Definitely tunics, especially in the summertime,” said Tajima. “I’m a huge fan of performance fabrics, and also, natural fabrics. I love linen.”
To celebrate the new collection, we partook in Tajima and Uniqlo’s preview launch party and enjoyed a demonstration styled by Tajima, fresh cocktails, and live music by long-time friend, handpicked campaign front woman, and fashionably loyal LifeWear advocate, Yuna. After meeting in London in 2009 at the beginning of their careers, the duo stayed friends, and stood by each other through many professional advancements, including Tajima’s first clothing launch in Malaysia, last year’s launch with Uniqlo, and now, this second round in New York.
“When she started this line, a lot of the Muslim girls were asking about the line,” said Yuna. “American-Muslims were like, ‘Where can we get this? I tried looking for it in New York, but they don’t have it.’ So I think Uniqlo picked up on that. I’m really happy. And Islamic clothing, although I don’t really call it that, is more LifeWear—catered more to people who maybe like to wear longer jackets. I would call it a very comfy, modest, modern, stylish collection by Hana.”
And it is, thanks in part to Uniqlo’s dedication to innovation, exactly that.