Tadashi Yanai touched down in Manhattan Tuesday to unveil Uniqlo’s new collaboration with Alexander Wang — an intimates collection designed to keep one toasty with the retailer’s Heattech fabric technology.
Yanai, chairman president and chief executive officer of Fast Retailing and founder of Uniqlo, praised Wang’s ability to balance beauty with tradition, making clear just how important the collaboration was and calling Heattech “our greatest masterpiece.”
This is the second time Wang and Uniqlo have connected, the first being a dress collaboration for spring 2008.
The press conference was held in a former fire house in the Chinatown section that opened first onto a “frozen room” with an Alexander Wang and Uniqlo ice sculpture and a frosted-over street scene with bicycles. Coconut flavored ice sweets were served.
Beyond that was the “hot room,” playing off the idea behind Uniqlo’s Heattech line and featuring looks from the collaboration, encased in the ice or in plexiglass cases.
The line — billed as “a functional apparel designer collaboration” — brings Wang’s minimal, street aesthetic to the retailer and will be available starting Nov. 9.
In a short conversation in front of reporters from 10 countries, John Jay, president of Fast Retailing’s global creative, and Wang recalled the creative process.
Jay remembered that he and Yanai visited Wang almost two years ago and said they would like to collaborate. Wang said he thought hard how to make it work for his brand and Uniqlo and finally seized on intimates, noting that adding Heattech would take something as simple as basic innerwear would make it better — a cornerstone of the Uniqlo philosophy.
“In fashion, things are constantly evolving…at the speed of light, the speed of a click,” Wang said. “If we were to do something together it had to be spectacular, it had to break down boundaries, it had to push the conversation forward.”
Jay said the first look at the line delivered.
“When you showed us the samples for the first time, we were stunned because that simple made better just came to life,” he said.
Wang started with the Heattech fabrication and went from there.
“Sometimes the simple things are the hardest to reimagine because you’re so familiar with it,” Wang said. “The last innovation in intimates was really Hanes and then Calvin Klein.”
The process came with some back and forth, though, and Jay commented on, and admired, Wang’s persistence when it came to communicating his vision.
“How many times did you say, ‘That’s too normal?’” Jay asked Wang.
“The goal is always to find solutions and to come up with solutions,” the designer said. “I do work good under pressure.”
He added, a little sheepishly: “I do push. I’m a pusher.”