LONDON — Celia Birtwell has designs on Uniqlo — bright, graphic designs with names like Romanian, Jacobean, Bird Song, Dilly Daydream and Cherry Pet Spot.
This story first appeared in the January 30, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The British textile designer, whose bold prints and floral patterns were a defining feature of Sixties and Seventies London fashion, has teamed with Uniqlo for a capsule clothing collection that will launch in the U.K. on March 21, WWD has learned.
The collection includes dresses, T-shirts, tunic vests and tote bags covered with Birtwell’s vintage and contemporary prints, which have been rescaled and reworked to fit the clothing and accessories.
Prices range from 9.90 pounds, or $15.50 at current exchange, for a tote to 29.90 pounds, or $46.90, for a dress.
Following the U.K. launch in March, the plan is to sell the collection in selected stores globally and online. Uniqlo’s latest collaboration follows successful ventures with British fashion labels Laura Ashley, Orla Kiely and Lulu Guinness.
“We are very pleased with the success of the other collaborations with British designers so far. Each designer has brought something different to our lines of clothing, and as a result of our collaborations Uniqlo has increased its appeal with customers globally,” Yuki Katsuta, senior vice president at Fast Retailing Group, and head of Uniqlo Research and Design, commented via e-mail.
“In our experience, British designers are popular worldwide, which has helped us,” Katsuta added. “I believe that prints originated in the U.K. They are part of British tradition and history, which has a strong sensitivity toward gardens, flowers, colors and patterns.”
He said prints and designs are no different from art: “People love it the instant they see it. So regardless of age, and regardless of country or nationality, people know what they like when they see art. I believe our customer comes from a broad international audience.”
Katsuta, who declined to give sales projections for the collection, said Birtwell has international appeal.
“She is able to combine the traditional sensitivity toward prints with a contemporary, modern and unique twist. It can be in the combination of colors, or in the particular print design. My key learning from our early years of doing prints is that regardless [of] whether they are the same or not, if they are beautiful prints, people will wear them.”
British model Portia Freeman features in the ad campaign, although no details of the rollout were immediately available.
Birtwell, who has a thriving business as a home textiles designer, said that she opened up her archives — and offered her contemporary designs — to Uniqlo, allowing them to choose what they wanted. “We’ve even adopted some of the home prints, such as the Jacobean, for the collection,” she said.
She added that working with Uniqlo was a breeze. “We were all talking from the same page — and we made each other laugh. They are a very sympathetic company and from Day One there were no blips,” she said.
Birtwell — who, with her then-husband, the late Ossie Clark, and their cat, was immortalized by David Hockney in his 1971 painting “Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy” — added that one of her favorite prints is the cat-and-dog print, known as Cherry Pet Spot.
Birtwell said she teamed with Uniqlo because of their “terribly clever, very basic designs and great colors. You can’t misunderstand their clothing, and the atmosphere in Uniqlo shops is very peaceful.”
VMPD Consulting, run by Vanessa Denza, brokered the partnership with Uniqlo on behalf of Birtwell. Denza also worked with Birtwell on her sellout collaboration with Topshop in 2006.
The 11-piece collection for Topshop featured Birtwell’s delicate, hand-drawn floral prints, whose shapes and names referenced the designer’s Seventies heyday: Mystic Daisy, Monkey Puzzle and Golden Slumbers.