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."