When it comes to designing her Uniqlo collaboration, Carine Roitfeld has two signs of approval. "If it's good, Carine says, 'It, me,'" said Uniqlo Design Director Naoki Takizawa on Wednesday night, at the launch of Roitfeld's fall 2016 collection in the Japan retailer's Fifth Avenue store. "And [if it's] really good, more than good, she says 'It’s so me.'"
Takizawa and Roitfeld have found a groove in their third season working together to bring the legendary editor's indelible style to Uniqlo shoppers around the world. "It's the same concept — it just makes my dream come true, to see what I would love to wear," said Roitfeld. The first collection launched a year ago and sold fast. The fall 2016 range is larger than the past two, features more personalized elements (such as a bomber embroidered with her name across the back and a belt with a "CR" chain) and even more Roitfeld-approved patterns (camouflage, leopard) — all while staying in that accessible Uniqlo price range ($9.90 to $199.90). It arrived online and at select stores on Thursday.
The starting point for collection's design is street style pictures of Roitfeld, which Takizawa brings to Paris to discuss with her alongside her actual wardrobe. "I visited her apartment and she showed me many things from her closet," he said. "There are so many pictures of Carine on the internet so I picked, then ask her, 'Okay, which outfits are your favorites?'" After that conversation, Takizawa returns to Japan to start working on samples before Roitfeld joins him for fitting, where all the decisions are made "by look," he explained.
Roitfeld's biggest concern is fit, and she tries all the pieces on herself. "It's very simple clothes but just the proportions are very important," she said. "The length of the sleeve, the neckline, the shoulder... everything is important even with a classic piece, it has to be perfection." Takizawa learned from her that details and silhouettes "make attitude on the woman." Roitfeld credits Takizawa's understanding of her aesthetic as another key to the collection's success. "He's fantastic because for a Japanese guy, he's spent a lot of time in France so he totally understands the French girl," she said. "When I'm talking about fishnets and slip dresses, he totally understands what I mean."
Though the slip dress in the spring 2016 collection was a bit of a gamble for Uniqlo. "For Uniqlo, it's surprising because it never sells," said Takizawa. "We had no experience. [We said,] 'Let's try it, let's make Carine’s slip dress. And we designed [it] and in only one week, it sold out." Such is the magic of Roitfeld's special touch.
But perhaps the most interesting part of collaboration is how it has spurred Uniqlo to advance its own production techniques. "For Uniqlo, to be able to do leopard fake fur, you know, this is very new for them," said Roitfeld, adding that the fur pieces were her favorite of the latest line. "This one is very beautiful," she said, motioning to the brown furry blouson she had draped over a tweed jacket. "When it's possible not to wear real fur, you feel better too, no?"
Takizawa asked Uniqlo's factories "if we could create something nicer" for the Roitfeld collections, and he said they more than complied. "They have one factory producing only Carine's collection... with special training and special machines," he said. "That's why it can be like this kind of [quality]."
So will Uniqlo and Roitfeld continue to design together? "You never know, I hope so," said Roitfeld, adding that she loves traveling to Japan and working with the global brand. "Yes, yes, yes," said Takizawa. "Maybe a different style or something new, because Carine has many talents."
See the fall 2016 Uniqlo x Carine Roitfeld collection in the gallery below.