If you’re a fan of ‘gentlewoman style‘ (come on, it’s my first week, humour me!), you’ll be familiar with Christophe Lemaire. The former creative director of Hermès is now heading up Uniqlo U, a new, twice-yearly collection, produced by the Uniqlo Paris R&D centre team, where Lemaire is artistic director.
The debut Uniqlo U collection arrived today and I got an early look a few weeks ago when I saw the line in its entirety. Then it was impeccably merchandised; colour-coordinated, pressed to within an inch of its life and modelled on gorgeous young things in the showroom. But how does it stack up in store? I went to a preview shopping event yesterday and tried everything on so you don’t have to…
DESIGN If you’re a disciple of Christophe Lemaire, then you already know what to expect. Classic colours (let’s call them muted primaries, such as ochre yellow, dull red, denim blue), utilitarian staples with a luxury cut and finish and plenty of outerwear. The coats are great and if you like MA1 jackets and haven’t got one yet (um, where have you been?), then these come in lots of colours and are reversible (buy them here, £59.90). Uniqlo is famous for its down jackets and there’s a lot of choice here. I bought the featherweight Light Down Shirt Jacket (£69.90) as a useful layer to wear under my coat and as with everything, they come up big so go a size down.
There are lots of boyish pieces but there are also some standout shirt dresses (buy them here, £39.90), tunic tops and cotton grandad shirts (here, £29.90) for the Chloé-Hermès-Lemaire girl. I’ve noticed that Uniqlo is doing a lot with French designers and there’s a definite French-Japanese harmony to this that will speak to all the cool kids.
QUALITY Uniqlo’s ‘LifeWear’ philosophy is all about the practical, everyday-anywhere pieces and in that respect, I think the best quality pieces are those made from utilitarian fabrics. The nylon, denim and cotton pieces look like they will last well. There are some great cashmere knits but I baulked at paying £100 for high street cashmere.
FIT A lot of attention has been paid to cut and fit and I think this could well determine the ongoing success of this line. I wasn’t sold on the Jil Sander collection a few years ago, but the cut on this collection is extremely considered. The MA1 is cropped and has a very curved silhouette. It’s a slightly more ‘fashion’ version than other MA1s. The sleeves are gently curved which I noticed on my padded Light Down Shirt Jacket too. It just helps it look more contemporary.
I tried a very simple black rollneck. It’s cut slightly wide which I loved and I was super tempted, but was just not sure about the quality. There are a lot of beautiful knits though, I loved the Milano Ribed Crew Neck (£39.90, here) which looks like it could be Acne Studio. It’s boxy but slim and so didn’t quite fit my shape. Overall, I will say that you need to be slimish for these shapes to flatter. They’re quite androgynous and bulky or generously cut which is very much the look of the moment.
TRENDS For those who love the Vetements mania for padded jackets and bombers, this is for you. If you need to stock up on bright knits in simple shapes, then the cut on the knits is very appealing. I discovered an amazing chino-jean hybrid (I’ve christened them ‘jean-os’) that is a perfect fit. It’s a chino cut with an ironed-in front crease and adjustable side tabs (£29.90, buy them here). Very menswear-y but the twist is it’s a denim-y fabric. I’ve been wearing mine all day and might have to go back for more.
Accessory-wise, there’s not a huge amount. But I can imagine the padded mittens, bag and scarf will do well. I don’t think Uniqlo does much in the way of leathergoods, which is a shame as it would have been good to see a leather bag or two. Maybe in time…
Three years ago I had a lightbulb moment. “Why doesn’t someone do a coffee table book on women with ‘gentlewoman style’?” I said to Mr DRG. Nothing new, as we have one of these “why doesn’t someone do/design/invent…” conversations at least thrice a week.
“You should do it,” he said, most likely as a conversation stopper. I filed it in the part of my brain marked, ‘good ideas that will never see the light of day’, and started a Pinterest board instead.
Fast forward to, um, today and the lightbulb moment has trasitioned into a real, living, actually-on-the-shelves physical thing that you can hold. Guys, I did it. I wrote a book – and it’s released today!
So The New Garconne – How To Be A Modern Gentlewoman is a tribute to the kind of cool, discerning, grown up tomboys that I admire. I’m not a fan of putting people on pedestals so I won’t use words like goddess, icon or girl boss (gag) but just say that the women I profiled are soooo inspiring and relatable yet have that unknown quantity that makes them a bit enigmatic. I interviewed them in person or by phone and then had them photographed Apartamento-style in their home, office or studio. That is, without fancy styling or props, just as is. If you’re as nosy as me, you’re going to love visually rooting around Bella Freud’s studio, on Caroline Issa’s desk, or in LaurenceDacade’s shoe-filled bathroom.
This interviewee was so hard to track down, it made me even more determined (it was totally worth it)…
Alongside the interviews are pages that give more specific info on where to buy the perfect examples of enduring ‘garconne’ classics and why. And we also have a great street style section that shows achievable ways to emulate the look. I’m glad to say that the message of the book is not all about buying new stuff, but shopping your closet, reworking vintage or heirloom pieces and tapping into your own gentlewoman style. The book is also not just limited to style. Being a ‘new garconne’ is about a way of living, being independent-minded, creative and risk-taking.
The New Garconne – How to be a Modern Gentlewoman is available from today in all the usual bookshops including Waterstones, Foyles, WHSmith and fabulous arty places like the Tate Modern bookshop, where one of my friends has already seen it. If you see it (or buy it!), please let me know on social media (@Disneyrollrgirl on Twitter and @Disneyrollergirl on Instagram) and tag it #thenewgarconne. And do let me know what your favourite bits are…
WORDS: Disneyrollergirl/Navaz Batliwalla
IMAGES: Kasia Bobula; Elise Toide; Max Dworkin; Disneyrollergirl
NOTE: Some posts use affiliate links and PR samples. Please read my cookies policy here
Two can’t-miss exhibitions I want to see, and both a million miles from home. Bruce Weber and Peter Lindbergh are in my top ten photographers (hey, I’m a 90s girl at heart) and their work is being celebrated from this moth in Rotterdam and Dallas. (more…)