24 Minutes with Tomas Maier on his first collaboration with Uniqlo
This month, Japanese fast fashion retailer Uniqlo is giving us good reason to revamp our summer wardrobe with its first ever resort collection that will be launched this May 18 — designed in collaboration with Tomas Maier, the creative director of Italian luxury brand Bottega Veneta and his 21-year old eponymous label. While Uniqlo has dabbled with swimwear previously (collaborating with French luxury womenswear brand Princesse Tam.Tam), this new foray into resortwear is a unique direction for Uniqlo, as it boasts a complete range of men's and women's apparel that can be worn from the beach to the city with effortless ease — think polo knits, languid cotton poplin frocks, and chic chino shorts that you can layer over two-toned swimsuits.
Recently, we had the opportunity to check out the Tomas Maier x Uniqlo collection in Tokyo, where we also managed to catch half an hour of Maier's time on how this collection came about, the distinction between designing for Uniqlo and for his namesake label, along with a day in his life as a creative director.
On how the collaboration came about:
Tomas Maier: "Uniqlo was interesting to me — I like the idea of their LifeWear concept and to create accessible clothes that last. Uniqlo's a go-to for me as well. I like to buy my sweatshirts and tee shirts there. Its staple everyday clothes are rather similar to the clothes I design for my own brand. We [Tadashi Yanai and Maier] met in July 2017 to talk about this project that was supposed to be out a year later, but I was like, 'Why wait? We should do this for this Spring 2018 season.' It's a great collaboration. It was very pleasant to work with the company and the design team, and we used innovative and natural materials for this collection. I like to look to the future so we had some good discoveries together throughout the process, and there was good input that went into the collection. We used materials that were really futuristic and breathable for the humid climate, materials that dry very quickly — there's finesse and simplicity to it, which is what I like.
On Maier's favourite pieces from this collection:
TM: "I think I like all the pieces from the collection because otherwise, I wouldn't be designing it! From the tee shirts and swim trunks to the shorts and cashmere sweatshirts, these are all very easy pieces for guys. Obviously there is a lot more for women and I think it's going to be better once it's worn and broken in because it becomes more you, essentially."
On a second Tomas Maier x Uniqlo collection:
TM: "I wanted to go through with this all the way, so everything will be in stores in May. I'd like to see the reaction to this collection and then if there's interest on both sides to grow together another time, then we'll work together again, definitely. I'd like to see the results first then take it from there."
On the details of the collection:
TM: "I wanted to use a colour palette that's very happy and summery — a touch of orange, red and stark whites — to make it really joyful and mood lifting at the same time. I like swimwear that can dry extremely fast. I think this is key in swimwear, you want to have a suit that you can wear to the ocean and also not have to change out of it because it can dry easily. The material needs to keep you cool and it needs to feel pleasant on the skin in this climate, yet can dry fast. The clothes can go many different ways, whether to the beach or the city. Clothes need to be more functional and I don't think people buy clothes for specific occasions anymore — it's pieces that you can use again and in different ways."
On designing for this collection vs. designing for his namesake label:
TM: "If you're designing garments in high quantities at low price points, then yes, the design process is different. It is interesting yet challenging. It's great to try to make something that looks really good with low prices for the market, and to be able to reach out a wider range of consumers. I always say, 'If we make somebody spend that much money, it really needs to be special.' It needs to be exceptional, including the craftsmanship. I think it's the challenge everyday that I face — to make the clothes really good, and to make the person wearing my clothes look and feel good. This is what I like about Uniqlo — it is not knockoff clothes from runway brands. There is integrity to the clothing and designs, and it is well made. These are clothes that you can lounge in and still look good after."
On Japan and what his daily life in Florida is like:
TM: "I love Japan. I've been here many times and I love the culture, architecture, food and definitely the people. I'll be coming back soon because there are always more reasons for me to come to visit again. My life in Florida is as such — I have a design studio in Palm Beach and the same setup in New York and Milan. I travel between these three cities depending on the collections and the time of the year. I'm in the studio early in the morning at 9am. We don't go out for lunch, we usually order in because once we're on a roll we don't like to take a break, and after the break it's hard to pick the pace back up. My team travels often to see each other, so we're always on the road. I think it's interesting to expose people to pick up different cultures and vibes. We design for people all around the world so we might as well know how they travel and live, what's their lives like and what they might need and so on."
Take a look at the Tomas Maier x Uniqlo collection here:
Tomas Maier x Uniqlo drops in all Uniqlo stores and online this May 2018.