JW Anderson on Designing for Uniqlo and Learning to Slow Down

JW Anderson on Designing for Uniqlo and Learning to Slow Down

It's been seven years since Uniqlo first brought Jonathan Anderson into the fold, and since then the two have produced some of the most anticipated fashion collaborations around each season. With the designer helming his own luxury line and overseeing that of Loewe, it's one of the few times fans can stock up on affordable JW Anderson gear.

For their latest capsule, the two joined forces yet again with a collection for men and women that's all about lightweight spring energy and breezy summer ease. While previous seasons featured plenty of London references, this collection is decidedly more playful and incorporates lots of crafty elements, floral motifs, roomy shapes, linen shirts and fun bucket hats.

""I was really thinking of Spring when I was working on this collection," said Anderson of this season's collaboration. "We were all staying inside and I was looking forward to when we could venture out again. I also wanted to incorporate a feeling of craft, as its very important to me."

PAPER caught up with Anderson over Zoom to discuss the latest JW Anderson x Uniqlo collection, which launches today, among other things about the designer's very busy schedule.

Courtesy of Uniqlo

The circumstances behind designing this collection were obviously different from past seasons. What was going through your mind during the design process?

So we obviously had to do everything for this during a lockdown. Usually we would be in contact with each other, and we're in person. I was thinking for this collection that I — compared to the other ones we did — actually wanted something which was simplistically honest, really reduced down. I felt like online collections, I thought in my own brand and Loewe were, it's more kind of September period, I kind of was into this idea that this was this moment before summer, where you're kind of wanting something which was clean and fresh and something which had something slightly childlike. This idea of like chainstitch in the pockets or the little embroidered flowers, something that was uplifting without kind of being bombastic.

You're known for your artisanal elements at Loewe but also your own label. How did you go about incorporating this idea of craft for the Uniqlo line?

So for example, we had on the smock dresses, I wanted to use these multicolored threads, and we also had the little embroideries of the flowers on the t-shirts and the chain stitch. I like this idea of adding something humble onto the jean pocket, or something that felt very, very tiny. I wanted something that didn't feel loud, something that felt very kind of that it nearly was done by someone who was sitting in front of a TV. You know, like it was something which was pure somehow. You know this idea of the simple flower embroidered on a t-shirt, but it's just looks like this idea of a pastime, the idea of embroidery as a pastime.

How has your relationship with Uniqlo evolved over the years since you first started working with them and is there anything you've learned about yourself since?

Uniqlo is something I wear all the time. It's like the basis of my entire wardrobe. I feel like I have a very personal relationship with the clothing aspect of it. In a weird way you would think, Oh, well, that's the easier thing to do. It's actually incredibly complex in terms of design. It takes a lot more fittings. It's a lot more precise. What I always learned from Uniqlo is this idea where you're developing a fabric from scratch. I think, in a weird way, you have to have a lot of patience when you do things like this because it's not immediate. I think the whole point of doing collaborations is to be able to do a different exercise than what I do. So I enjoy that this is like, for me it's more of a cerebral approach to design.

Courtesy of Uniqlo

Being that you design for so many different markets, I'm curious what role designer clothes play in your own wardrobe vs more mass pieces.

I love a knitwear and a jacket. I'm wearing Uniqlo jeans right now. I'm wearing Uniqlo underwear and a t-shirt. So me, it's always going to be like this, I went to school and I had a uniform. I don't like making decisions in the morning. But then what I like about Uniqlo is that you can mix high fashion with it. You know, because the design essence is there. It's not kind of like competing in terms of putting something real with something fake. I like a kind of interesting knitwear. All the Uniqlo I've ever bought I still have the ones from the very beginning. Sometimes I quite like when they're completely worn out now after seven years. Then some days, I feel like I want something which is brand new. So it just depends on what mood I'm in sometimes. When it comes to the summer, I prefer things are kind of primary. Whereas in winter, I kind of like things are a bit more sluggish and a bit more comfy comfy.

Things are gradually starting to come back and you're still very busy. How do you hope to approach your work this year, which is shaping up to return to normalcy somewhat compared to 2020?

I think part of me is sort of like, I can feel the pace picking up. There's a lot of things that I think for me are permanently changed. There's a lot of aspects in my life that I think I want more. I want more downtime, where I'm thinking more on my own, not surrounded by 50 people. It's actually helped in terms of creativity, because you're kind of processing things more. I think I'll travel less, weirdly. I felt like before the pandemic I was running around and doing one long distance flight a month, which may not sound like a lot, but when you chop it up in Japan, LA and Miami, New York and Korea, it's quite a lot. So I feel like in terms of long distance, I feel like I've worked on methods to still engage with those markets, but in a more tactile way, or letter writing or making shows in boxes and things like that.

Top photo by Scott Trindle