As chapter 2 ends on their J+ line, the two look back with fondness and look forward with hope.
A lot has happened since 2009, when Jil Sander launched +J, a series of collections with Tadashi Yanai’s brand Uniqlo.
Both brands have flourished in the more than a decade time span, with Yanai becoming the riches person in Japan with a net worth of around 33.4 billion. Sander on the other hand has developed a reputation for her style and design perspective, particularly for its minimalist stance.
The J+ collections was said to be Uniqlo’s first connection into high fashion, and is broken into parts. Its first chapter was a series of collections from 2009 to 2011 while its sequel began in the first year of the pandemic up until the Fall/Winter 2021 range.
The mood of this bookend collection reflects the sentiment of the world ravage by a shared crisis, which is somber yet hopeful. This, the two expound on as well as their decade long professional relationship in a Q and A shared below.
On how much they’ve grown
Jil Sander: Uniqlo grew almost tenfold and became a truly international company with stores all over world. The brand proved that it can shoulder the required output and keep its high standard.
In 2009 already, Uniqlo had the know-how, the techniques and the logistics to establish +J successfully, a line which is based on the highest quality, fabric research and fine craftsmanship. When we reactivated +J, the collections grew accordingly.
It made me very happy to reach so many customers in all parts of the world and to achieve the +J mission of providing a modern global uniform, offering value, smart understatement and carefully forged contemporary silhouettes.
The Uniqlo team became even more professional over the years, from the beginning, it was extremely attentive and helpful in devising new ways of doing things. I feel a strong affinity to the Japanese culture and work ethics, to the love of quality and precision, the readiness to respond to demanding ideas, the urge to innovate and the willingness to experiment and start from zero, if needed.
Tadashi Yanai: As Ms. Sander pointed out, one major change has been Uniqlo’s business scale. In 2009 we had stores in eight markets and by 2020 had expanded to 25 markets. I also believe that customer trust in the Uniqlo quality and service has changed for the better.
The aspects that have stayed the same are Ms. Sander’s passion for making clothes, commitment to quality, and keen sense of the times. Uniqlo has also maintained a stance since the beginning of doing everything possible to respond to customer feedback, and that has led to a focus on quality and service.
I believe that the reason we have been able to maintain such a long-standing collaboration with Ms. Sander is due to the many points of overlap in our basic philosophies.
On what they think about each other
JS: No doubt, Mr. Yanai is a visionary, a self-made man of the finest order who never stopped evolving, engaging in higher stakes and in studying and anticipating the needs and wishes of his contemporaries. I was very lucky to meet him and to find a sparring partner for the audacious concept of +J.
As far as I can see, Mr. Yanai stayed the same faithful, conscientious man since his beginnings as an entrepreneur. He looks back on a stupendous success story, which must have been in his mind from early on, since he never wavered in his path.
TY: One of Uniqlo’s principles is “Simple Made Better.” Ms. Sander is a pioneer of that philosophy. Simple and beautiful clothing is not possible without persistent commitment to detail, and it was this attitude that made us confident of pursuing a collaboration with her.
I believe that Ms. Sander is a genius with a rare aesthetic sense and passion, and at the same time an unrivaled person able to continue creating timeless and ultimate styles for years to come.
On their pandemic experience
JS: Nature became much more important. In the country-side, you could move quite freely, and the beauty of our garden gave us back optimism. It was good to care for plants and take long walks in the woods and meadows.
For almost two years, we were unable to travel to Tokyo. The collections were conceived entirely on a digital basis. But as it turned out, virtuality and seclusion didn’t present greater problems and things worked out fine. This is largely a fruit of our ongoing UNIQLO collaboration and the familiarity of our teams.
We knew each other well and had trust in each other. As to my ideas during the pandemic, I was confident that we would master it eventually. Intense work on the +J collections kept me focused, and I had ample time to reflect on the mental and social changes, the pandemic brought with it.
We became more humble and grateful for the civilization we are graced with, and for our collected know-how which is finding its way out of that terrible challenge.
TY: The spread of coronavirus reminded me of just how deeply connected the world is. Nearly every company in the world faced the question of whether they could turn this crisis into an opportunity. The superficial is no longer acceptable, and the authentic is in even greater demand.
On their 12 year relationship
JS: My +J project was to bring the quality and sophistication of my high fashion experience to a large audience and to offer attractive, modern uniforms to a widely connected, discerning urbane customer.
The ambitious goal was to approach the peoples of today’s world, assist them through clothes in their self-assurance and in their readiness to engage in common goals. It was very rewarding and almost stupefying to me how Uniqlo managed to produce our very demanding collections on a global scale without a blink of the eye.
TY: I think of +J as taking Ms. Sander’s vision and expertise in high fashion and democratizing it through our commitment to quality and manufacturing capabilities. Being able to present the essential qualities of Ms. Sander to all types of customers around the world provided a great deal of confidence to UNIQLO.
We will never forget the dedication Ms. Sander has brought to making apparel and plan to use it to nourish further growth.
On what the future holds
JS: I will remain very curious of Mr. Yanai’s ideas. And I am confident, that he will develop his world embracing vision further. I want to thank him for his trust and our great collaboration, and I wish him good luck and all the best for his future endeavors. Now, we close a chapter, and I wonder what the future will look like.
TY: I will be extremely interested to see where Ms. Sander’s boundless passion and creativity takes her next. Ms. Sander’s creations are timeless, but I cannot help but look forward to the new things she will create. I also hope we are able to once again excite the world together, some day.
For more on the collection, visit Uniqlo.com.