Uniqlo x Lemaire is a big deal. While Uniqlo has an archive of dope collaboration projects the fact that Lemaire—a small French label helmed by the husband-wife duo of Christophe Lemaire and Sarah-Linh Tran—has teamed with the Japanese retailer to provide his incredibly luxe aesthetic at a reasonable price...well, it's nothing short of fantastic, and it drops at select Uniqlo locations and online on Oct. 2.
While you're likely familiar with Uniqlo's brand of affordable basics and wardrobe staples, you should also be familiar with Lemaire. Formerly the creative director at storied French label Hermès, Lemaire left his post following the Spring/Summer 2015 runway show to focus on his eponymous label (which started in 1992). Lemaire is known for, as one reviewer put it back in '92, "clothes that are extremely well made but practical."
It's a fitting mentality that doesn't just give Lemaire's designs an accessible luxury air (and make him one of Paris' most desired labels), but tucks neatly into the very ethos of Uniqlo.
Speaking with Uniqlo USA's Chief Merchandising Officer & Director of Brand Marketing, Justin Kerr, the partnership was a "very natural alliance." Considering that Uniqlo has a commitment to everyday clothing, or "lifewear" as they call it, both the Uniqlo and Lemaire teams found that each side had something to contribute. Specifically, as Kerr put it: "Uniqlo's great fabrics, and Lemaire's attention to detail."
But what you're really here for is the clothes themselves. While the pre-release shopping event I was able to attend was absolutely insane, I was able to find a handful of pieces that I could try on. It should be worth noting upfront that, as far as I saw at the preview, the largest size is a Large. That doesn't mean bigger dudes can't take part in the collection, as the pieces didn't feel like they were cut particularly small, but if you're normally an "XL" just keep that in mind before you jockey for a spot in the dressing room.
Starting with the "Flat Front Pants," they're definitely a clear winner. If you're in the market for clean, simplified trousers, these are the obvious choice. With a 100% cotton construction, they're an easy pick up—especially at around $60. In terms of sizing, Uniqlo always keeps the length of their pants at 34 inch inseam. That said, buy true to your waist size (realistically, I'm a 32 inch waist, so in this case, I'd cop a 32x34)
The other pair of pants I was able to try on were the "Wool Blended Cashmere Flat Front Pants". Basically ready for anything below 60 degrees, these wool pants feel luxe, and have a weight that makes them feel well worth their $90 price tag. They feel substantial without feeling constricting, though unlike the cotton trousers mentioned above, you'll notice the weight. They have a textured feeling that you'd expect from a thicker wool, and cinches in the back with a button fly. As with the above, the inseam is going to be 34 inches regardless of what you cop, so buy your normal waist size.
The pleated "Relaxed Pants" were a hot commodity, and come in Small-Large sizes, as do the sweatpants. They have an elastic waist, which explains the unorthodox sizing. The Small is great for anyone who's 28-30; Medium for 32-34; and Large for 34-36.
The "Regular Collar" shirt has a simple, collar that you'd expect on any collared shirt. The shirt itself is made of cotton, but does have a thin, grainy feel that's common on more "formal" shirting. In terms of details, the shirt contains a hidden placket—meaning that you can't see the buttons when the shirt is buttoned up. Some may find that to be a distraction, but the effect is a clean, smooth shirt front. The side of shirt has a rounded edge that almost vents, but doesn't rise high. It may feel thin, but will fit like most button-downs that you already have your closet. If you wear a medium shirt, you should expect to wear a medium here as well.
The "Collarless Longsleeve Shirt" is a bit of an interesting beast. While it looks like a typical "grandad collar" shirt, there's actually a major point with placket that's worth addressing. Unlike the other buttondowns in the collection, this shirt is designed like a popover—meaning the placket doesn't go all the way down the front of the shirt. I can't speak on how it will fit for every body type, but when I tried on a medium (my general shirt size) the last button hit around my belly button. The effect is hard to describe, but it made me think of peasant shirting. If you're trying it on in a color like navy (seen below) or are layering the shirt under something else, this detail will not be noticeable, but it's worth mentioning if you're trying the piece on and wondering why the buttons stop before your waistline.
The only other shirt I was able to get my hands on was the "Soft Touch Longsleeve Crew Neck T-Shirt," and I'll be honest—it lives up to the name. This shirt is incredibly soft, and comes in a slew of neutral colors. I tried one in off-white, but there were a variety of colors that match the rest of the collaboration collection's color palette. You should feel comfortable buying your normal T-shirt size, though I would recommend sizing up if you like your clothing a little looser. For the record, I normally wear a medium T-shirt in brands like Supreme and Palace, and size up to a large as necessary. I tried on a medium in this style, and it certainly fit, but I could have gone up one size more and been OK with the fit.
Before you cop though, you should notice the shirt's pocket detail. Unlike most pocket tees, which have the pocket right on the breast, this pocket is definitely below the breast. I wouldn't think it's completely jarring or affects the fit, it's just placed considerably lower than your common pocket T-shirt.
As for the rest of the shirting, you can feel confident buying true-to-size. For what its worth, I wanted to try on the "Convertible Collar Shirt," but it was almost always out of stock—even with shop employees refilling the racks.
There were two pieces I could actually get my hands on, the mock neck "Extra Fine Merino High Neck Sweater" and the "Cashmere Turtleneck". The mock neck sweater is really cozy, but on the thinner side. It's the only knit I was able to snap a picture of in the dressing room, and you can see the belt loops of my pants coming through.
That said, Uniqlo's fabrics really shine through here, and it's a combination of soft and structured—it's hard to find Merino wool at about $50, so this is a solid buy. If you're down with mock neck, or "High Neck" sweaters, this piece is effectively a must cop. Like the other pieces here, I'm wearing a medium.
The other sweater I was able to try on was the "Cashmere Turtleneck". To put it bluntly, this is going to be a difficult one to buy. At the shopping event, it was almost impossible to actually get my hands on, so if you're seriously considering it, it's wiser to pull the trigger before you miss out. I tried on a medium, and overall it's as luxurious as you'd expect a cashmere sweater to be. Not itchy, the cashmere is smooth and extremely soft to the touch. The only downside is that I found it a bit thin, but considering that it comes in either black or navy, you're pretty much covered if you're worried about it being "see-through."
The rest of the knitwear fits pretty much along the lines mentioned above. You should be able to fit into your normal size, especially in the sweatshirt-style garments.
Outerwear and Jackets
The "Shirt Jacket" is effectively a lined coaches jacket, plain and simple. I wouldn't expect this to get you though winter, but worn with a hoodie, this jacket should be able to take you right through the rest of autumn.
The three button "Wool Cashmere Jacket" is basically a thick wool blazer. With an oxford shirt or a turtleneck sweater, it's hard not to feel like you're a college professor storming across the quad when you have this jacket on. Stiff, but still substantial and comfortable, it's an impossible-to-miss investment piece if you're someone who needs to "dress up" for work, or simply likes wearing blazers on the regular. Again, this wouldn't get you through winter on its own, but in autumn or spring, this has a great build. The "Blended Shawl Collar Jacket" was very difficult to find in my size, but two do have a similar feel, structure, and build. Again, I'd suggest going true-to-size if possible, though if you're going for it more as an outer layer, you could size up.
The final piece of outerwear I was able to try (and my "most desired" piece before I walked into the event) was the shawl collar "Wool Cashmere Coat". To be blunt, if you don't have a topcoat in your roster, this is the one to buy. Sleek, as it is comfortable, this is sure to be a coat that will have friends and passerby asking "where did you get that?"
Like most of the clothes mentioned in this piece, I initially tried on a medium, but would recommend sizing down (and that goes for any of the other long coats in the collection). While it definitely should fit if you buy true-to-size, if you're looking for a more "tailored fit" right off the rack, then going down a size will be the best bet; you'll still have plenty of room underneath your coat even if you go for a smaller size.
For the outerwear, if it's a long coat or topcoat (and you like things a little more fitted, like I do) try to go down a size if you can. If it's a shorter, waist-level jacket, I'd recommend sticking to your normal size.
Why You Should Shop the Women's Section
One of the best parts about this collection (and Lemaire as a designer) is that the even the women's clothing looks incredible. While I wouldn't recommend shopping the women's collection in the event that something runs out over in the men's section, the outerwear—namely the long "Cashmere Blended Wool Robe Coat" and the "Hooded Coat" parka, are worth a second look.
In the case of hooded parka, details like an inner lining and covered pockets made me wish they designed the men's parka that way (aside from the fact that it looks like a Maison Margiela-esque labcoat, which in my humble opinion, is an unintended plus).
Also worth a second look, the women's "Work Coat". Aside from boasting an interior lining for extra warmth, it's still sturdy enough to match its workwear-inspired title. Sure it's for the ladies, but if Young Thug can wear ladies clothes, so can you.
What to Watch Out For
If tomorrow's release is anything like the preview, this collection is going to go quickly. Pieces like the shawl-collar cashmere topcoat, and the cashmere turtleneck are perfect fusions of Lemaire's precise minimalism, and Uniqlo's quality fabrics at a price that most can actually afford.
If I had to predict what's going to fly off the shelves, it would have to be the cotton "Flat Front Pants", the "Convertible Collar Shirt", and the "Cashmere Turtleneck". While the preview event saw several of the very well-done cashmere topcoats still hanging around, I wouldn't expect that to be the case come general release. At a price of $200, it's almost impossible to find a piece that matches its quality (see: f**king CASHMERE) at that price point.
It's early to tell, but this is easily one of the most well-thought out, well-constructed, and frankly best, collaborations that I've seen in this space. Good luck getting your hands on it on release day.