The fairly modest line that formed outside the store just before 10AM told us that the launch of the latest edition of UNIQLO's latest Designers Invitation collections was not going to be the kind of grab -what -you -can madness that greeted Phillip Lim's capsule collection last year.
This was something of a relief, and when the doors promptly opened, the waiting customers - mostly men - swarmed the Tim Hamilton section, some loading their arms with one of each item and heading for the dressing rooms. Brazilian designer Juliana Jabour's smaller group of jersey dresses remained basically untouched. Clearly, it was Hamilton's day.
And how were the clothes? Hamilton's turned out well, with UNIQLO's factories doing a very good job of approximating the designer's signature weathered sportswear. We picked up the soft blue-gray jeans ($49.50) which fit better than last year's Cloak efforts.
The khakis looked good, but in the end, they are your basic khakis. We really wanted the oxford shirt ($39.50) with the little white collar and cuffs that got such a rave earlier this week, but we had to accept that even at our skinniest, our shoulders would never make peace with the narrow cut and high armholes. The same went for all the tops, so we reluctantly put back the smart twill jacket with zip pockets ($59.50). While it's the cut that separates Hamilton from, say, J.Crew, it's also one of the things keeps us out of his clothes, and customers should be aware that the sizes again run only up to a smaller, Japanese scaled Large, good news for guys who fit the current, scrawny ideal, but not so much for the athletically built.
Many customers simply bought out the entire line, and with nothing over $60, they probably spent less than the price of a single item in Hamilton's main collection. After about 30 minutes, the corner quieted down, and workers quickly filled in the the merchandise, though the gray oxford shirt was already almost gone.
We took our jeans to check out, and were informed that the waiting time for the free hem shortening was a whopping three ...weeks?...days? ...no, hours.
Wow, three hours. We can probably handle that wait.
As for Jabour's line? It continued to hang quietly, waiting for attention. It's worth noting that this collaboration probably won't do that much for either designer's business here in the U.S. where UNIQLO has only the one store at the moment. Outside of New York, most Americans are still pretty oblivious to the Japanese retailer. However, the exposure they will get in the hundreds of Asian branches can be a huge boon, especially to a self-financed, independent designer like Hamilton.
One change that should please the participating designers is putting their names on the labels this time, keeping them in customers' minds, and offering the little bit of designer gratification that was missing from the previously label-free collections.
If this launch was quiet, brace yourselves for the next round coming in May which features cult fave Alexander Wang and the up and coming Loden Dager, who may attract more Lim-like crowds.
UNIQLO Designers Invitation Project (Japanese website)