CULVER CITY, Calif. — Velvet is giving a Californian twist to jersey and cashmere in a new collaboration with Uniqlo.
This story first appeared in the May 24, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Set to hit Uniqlo’s 950 stores worldwide on June 17, the new venture, dubbed Uniqlo + Velvet, offers 14 jersey styles retailing from $15.90 to $19.90. Jenny Graham and Toni Spencer, the co-creative directors at Velvet, created four separate mini collections inspired by the Southern California lifestyle to appeal to Uniqlo’s diverse customer base.
A group dubbed Hollywood Roosevelt features a black sleeveless top with a draped neckline and other slinky rayon pieces that can be worn on a night out, while a set called Venice Beach uses heather gray jersey in a racer-back tank dress accentuated with cotton voile. A cropped harem pant in gray cotton slub comes from a daytime-oriented batch called Point Dume, and lightweight Supima cotton is used for a cap-sleeve tunic in a set named Rodeo Drive.
In its first collaboration with a fast-fashion retailer, Velvet joins the ranks of Phillip Lim, Alexander Wang and Opening Ceremony, who have all teamed with Uniqlo over the years. Uniqlo’s parent Fast Retailing also has an extensive collaboration with designer Jil Sander to produce her +J line.
During the yearlong process planning the two collections, Graham and Spencer visited Uniqlo’s stores in New York, Tokyo and Paris to better understand the retailer’s approach to design and merchandising.
“We’re very impressed by Uniqlo,” Spencer said as she examined the samples from the collaboration at Velvet’s headquarters here. “Because they are operating on such a large scale, they could bring us things we liked. The cashmere — the quality was incredible.”
Uniqlo + Velvet dips into the same color palette Velvet uses. The summer lineup features deep pink, lavender, powder blue, dark green and light gray, for instance. Yet, through compromises such as using a single layer of cashmere instead of two, Velvet, which normally retails for between $55 and $200, could cut its prices by more than half for Uniqlo.
“Now especially, [the low pricing] is something that’s very attractive to the consumer,” Graham said.
In September, Velvet will offer six cashmere cover-ups dyed in rich hues such as teal, wine red, black and heather gray. Encompassing a trapeze-shaped cardigan, off-the-shoulder tunic and long-sleeve top with an asymmetric hem, among other items, Velvet’s fashion knits are designed to complement the basic silhouettes that Uniqlo usually stocks. The cashmere collection will sell for between $99.90 and $129.90.
“You always love a bargain,” Graham said.