Earlier this year, Uniqlo did every man a solid by coaxing cool French designer Christophe Lemaire in-house as the head of a new line called Uniqlo U.
The appointment made nothing if not good business sense for the high street retailer, given that it followed not just one but two sell-out collaborations with the designer.
If you’re not familiar with Lemaire or his work, just know the man is basically a gift from the menswear gods. The former artistic director of Lacoste and Hermès, his style is best summed up as louche French minimalism with a sporty edge (and honestly, who doesn’t want some of that?)
It’s a reputation Lemaire lives up to in the partnership’s first outing, which includes 35 menswear pieces available in 230 Uniqlo stores worldwide and online now.
“Our ambition is to fill the gap between what’s fashion and what’s ‘normal,'” explained Lemaire. “I know the word ‘normcore’ is overused, but there’s something about normality I find very interesting – how do you make it super normal but refined and cool and desirable?”
Winter coats aren’t exactly the cheapest piece in a man’s wardrobe and unless you know exactly which style you want to wear every day for the next six months, chances are you’ll be buying more than one.
Uniqlo U has all the bases covered, ranging from a luxurious wool-blend chesterfield to a hooded parka and even a down-filled shirt-jacket. Each comes in at under £130, so you can fight the chill outside in style and still have enough money to put the heating on at home.
Despite being designed to sidestep trends, Lemaire’s signature je ne sais quoi can’t help but lend itself expertly to relaxed sportswear. In reinventing basics to be anything but basic, the designer has created pieces that work just as well on their own as they do as part of a layered look.
Long-sleeved rugby tops sit alongside Oxford shirts and pullover hoodies, all in-keeping with the Japanese retailer’s ‘LifeWear’ philosophy of providing comfortable clothing for all lifestyles.
The below-freezing temperatures felt when first leaving the house in the morning can soon sky rocket once vacuum-packed onto a crowded train. The trick is to make the most of lightweight but generous knits that can be added and taken away with ease.
Uniqlo U’s button up cardigan or cashmere crew neck slots perfectly over a shirt and tie, while throw-on-and-go long-sleeved polos are essential when it comes to off-duty dressing.
Down below is where Lemaire’s leaning towards muted tones comes into its own. Providing the perfect foundations to build on, jeans, chinos, trousers and cords come in winter-appropriate hues like black, navy and olive.
Corduroy is known for being exceptionally hardwearing and warm, making it a go-to fabric in colder weather. Plus, Uniqlo U’s version is cut slim and straight like your best jeans, so there’s no need to worry about looking like your dad.