Christophe Lemaire Offers
a Look Inside Uniqlo U
The Uniqlo U 2019 Fall & Winter Women’s Collection draws inspiration from the illustrations of Ayumi Ohashi, who produced cover art for the Japanese magazine HEIBON PUNCH in the 1960s and 1970s. A few years back, I stumbled across this men’s magazine at COW BOOKS, a used bookstore in Nakameguro, Tokyo. It captures a time when Japan was coming into its own, discovering an appreciation for fashion, cars, and recreation, thanks to increased disposable income. The excitement of the era was palpable on every page. I was hooked. The women Ayumi Ohashi illustrated for the covers were fantastically alluring. Tight sweaters and flare pants, double-breasted coats...simultaneously urban and casual chic. Delicate yet resolute, maybe even melancholy. Sexy in the best possible way. Incredibly stylish.
The collection also drew inspiration from Love in the Afternoon, an Eric Rohmer film that appeared around the same time, in the early 1970s. Most of Rohmer’s films are quiet, understated love stories. They have a signature naivete that I enjoy. The fashion styling of the Parisian women in this film in particular is fantastic. Ribbed sweaters, scoop necks, cotton raincoats, blue jeans, Shetland crewneck sweaters. Classic, but with a youthful mood of innovation. Something altogether different from the hippies. When I saw the covers of HEIBON PUNCH, I felt the same effect.
Courtesy of MAGAZINE HOUSE CO., LTD.
Founded in 1964 by Heibon Publishing (Today: MAGAZINE HOUSE CO., LTD.), HEIBON PUNCH was a legendary Japanese magazine showcasing European and American fashion and lifestyles, especially the Ivy look, and was immensely popular with younger audiences. The cover artist for the inaugural issue was Ayumi Ohashi, a newly minted graduate of the Painting program at Tama Art University. Her cover illustrations, which she produced until 1971, became synonymous with the magazine. Ohashi continues to be active as an illustrator. In 2002, she founded Arne, a quarterly magazine for which she oversaw all aspects of production,
In producing each collection for Uniqlo U, I’m always thinking about “KISS Principle,” or “Keep it simple, stupid,” a saying popularized by the US Navy in the 1960s. You can’t create something refined by making esoteric flourishes or piling on elaborate designs. The idea is to produce something anybody can intuitively understand, from fashion-loving kids to ordinary citizens.
Clothing is inextricable from lifestyle, almost like a little house. Except it’s not a barrier that protects us from the world around us, but a way of being our best selves by revealing who we are. Just like delicious food, a comfortable environment, or rich cultural experiences, it contributes to a better “quality of life.” I came to understand that Ayumi Ohashi was not only an illustrator, but an advocate for an intentional, high-quality lifestyle, which I found fascinating. Perhaps this overarching ethos is why the covers of HEIBON PUNCH speak to me.
- Christophe Lemaire
- Artistic Director, UNIQLO Paris R&D Center. Born in 1965 in France. After founding his own brand in 1991, he worked at <LACOSTE> and <HERMÈS> before coming to UNIQLO in 2016.
Photography by BASEFIVE (portrait), Reporting by Kosuke Ide