a bit of love for the basics


If I had to pick a store where I've consistently left with wardrobe gems I refuse to let go of, it would be  Uniqlo, where I have consistently shopped for nearly a decade. I buy necessary foundations like socks (from the men's section), undies and bras, base layers like those Airism tanks with built in bras (so comfortable) or the odd Heat Tech. I buy "utility" clothing like shorts (denim and chinos), t-shirts, lightweight fleece and down pieces for winter/fall travel. I buy well-done basics that have a bit of flair: linen shirts (long-sleeved, sleeveless) and summer dresses (a flowing midi-length dress, boxy linen shirt dresses). In this universe of basics in every colour, there are even "special finds" - I'm in love with a French workman-style denim jacket from the new collab with Ines de la Fressange.

In a shop like Uniqlo - compared to say, Zara - I feel like I'm more likely to figure out my personal style. Like all trend-driven stores, Zara is the instantly gratifying conduit to what's happening now. You can come out looking like you've stepped out of a magazine. It's like a highly polished performance.

A shop like Uniqlo on the other hand is style evolution at a slower pace. There are nods to trends (like wide-leg trousers and culottes), and seasonally-refreshed colour palettes, but generally, one starts with the basics before the eye adjusts and starts to pick out pieces that elevate the foundations you've bought - a navy bomber here, a men's shirt for layering there. There's something very relaxing shopping in a place that doesn't sell a look, where it's not about the vision of a particular designer. I do love the inspiration that comes from fashion, but as a regular person with a life that demands practicality, my sensibilities are grounded by something much more down to earth.

This note of appreciation for Uniqlo stemmed from the realisation that I somehow did almost all my Lunar New Year shopping there, the above two items being prime examples. The dress on the left is an excellent weight linen that tempts me to buy one in every colour. The jacket is a little out of character for me seeing as I wear a lot of jeans and am not a fan of double-denim pairings. But they look great with dresses and are a great alternative to the cardigans I wear in the office. I recently did a spring clean where I had to discard some clothes that I loved but that had become too worn to keep wearing. But as in the years before, I didn't throw out anything from Uniqlo.

Meanwhile, the folks of Put This On had a good post recently on what makes street style interesting, in which they shared a nice quote from Styleforum owner Fok Yan Leung:

"The problem with “fashion people” who are often photographed is that it’s much too easy to fall into the trap of looking all uniquely the same. You shop in the same stores, you replenish your clothing regularly, you work the fashion circuit, and it would take an extraordinary sense of self to not be influenced by globalized fashion. That, or you react so strongly to or against that you become a caricature.

On the other hand, random people on the street who look cool probably took their time to purchase their clothing and want to look good, but they are not surrounded by “fashion, fashion, fashion” constantly. And their dress has to fit their lifestyles, which does not generally involve being around a bunch of fashion people all day. So you have someone who might find a uniform and wear it for 5 years (a lifetime in fashion). Or someone who buys several pieces every year and incorporates them into his wardrobe, thus evolving their own style, but at a much slower pace than fashion is changing."    


Pret a Porter P said…
Excellent quote that really nails the fashion look. I'll see certain looks, like say an olive parka but with black (faux) leather sleeves styled in a certain way that screams "blogger" to me. When I think of people with style its like its molded to them. Its why old ladies can look fabulous with armfuls of massive bracelets.
Archana said…
I have been marinating over the quote all day. So true. Even the ones who start of with style blogging seem to give in to the 'fashion look' after a few years and some success on the internet. My reading list has been shrinking rapidly with time. I find more inspiration from exceptional people in other professions - travellers, bikers, scientists, graphic designers, etc who make an effort to look good.

I never shopped at Uniqlo. I am indeed surprised to see you rave about it.

If i were to nominate a store that i feel the same way as you feel about uniqlo, I would say - Cuyana and APC. I don't own that much from them, but its my go to.

I always wondered - if one day, zara would make the same clothes they make in high quality, ethical working conditions and natural fabrics ! That would be a happy day for me. Till then, never mind.
Aïssa said…
You captured what I like about Uniqlo (Gap sometimes fall in that category) as well, their clothes leave space to create and inject more of myself. Often with Zara, H&M and the likes, trends are a bit too obvious even if I definitely feel the rush of being able to identify and own what's "hot right now".
With the exception of HeatTech (it doesn't keep me warm enough? It can get pretty cold where I live though) I have yet to be disappointed with my Uniqlo purchases. I don't shop there often but everything I've purchased has held up very well.

I feel like Uniqlo now is what The Gap used to be in the 90s - a place you go to if you need a good basic shirt, or a good basic sweater but don't want to pay exorbitant amounts of money.

I also feel like they have a good sized selection of stock and colors. I often get overwhelmed when I walk into H&M to find the store bursting with clothes - I can't help but imagine all of those things in a landfill!

'Streetstyle' photography is a bit of a circus now, I find. For me the best inspiration is still walking the streets of NYC and unabashedly people watching - so many cool outfits!
Shutterbug K said…
what koko said ^ uniqlo is now what old gap is to me. gap tends to put trendy details (lace cut out panels, those terrible zippers at the side seams) on every bloody sweater they make. A cable knit fisherman's sweater doesn't need zippered hems (I'm also looking at you, Madewell.)

the Ines jacket almost looks like a chore coat--was that from this year? how thick is the denim?
lin said…
pret a porter p: i agree, which is why i really love people watching and feel inspired when the right person comes along. i don't think solely catching people at fashion week qualifies as true street style photography.

archana: yep uniqlo isn't immediately inspiring but i've found that i get a lot out of what i've bought from them.

i do often get a spark of excitement by what i see in zara windows. and then i go into the store, pick it up, and remember why it's a bad idea. i have to say though that i i a few pairs of black work trousers from zara and they've really pulled their weight as a staple.

aissa: i like the sense of discovery in a store like uniqlo, like when i pick up a kneelength skirt and think, 'this is very margaret howell'.

koko: H&M depresses me, i don't know why, when there's only so much difference between mass market brands where production values are concerned. i suppose the 'basic' quality of uniqlo makes you feel like you're buying something to wear for a decent period of time, compared to the trendiness of H&M where the clothes seem destined to be a flash in the pan, making them seem more wasteful.

shutterbug k: spot on about unnecessary, trendy details, i hate zips at the back of tops too, usually pointless and the metal on my spine makes me flinch.

yes it is, it's from the spring/summer collection in stores now. i think the denim is quite decent although i can't give you the exact weight. it's non-stretch.

Natalie said…
I adore Uniqlo - the quality for what you pay is fantastic and, as you point out, their pieces are all chic but with a certain timelessness to them that doesn't mean you want to chuck them out after a season or two.
Daphne said…
Just discovered your blog while searching for Uniqlo reviews. I like the way you write. Bookmarking your site.

Popular Posts