Image courtesy of Uniqlo

Marni and Uniqlo deliver the eccentric summer uniform of your dreams

Marni's Francesco Risso discusses the power of contrast, what makes for a successful fashion collaboration, and his favourite Uniqlo pieces.

by Mahoro Seward
|
19 May 2022, 2:34pm

Image courtesy of Uniqlo

Marni. It’s a name that you intrinsically associate with a joyful, whimsical approach to fashion. Hand-wrought textures; idiosyncratic proportions; saturated, lysergic hues. Indeed, it’s a house where eclecticism, irreverence and romantic intuition lie at the core of its ethos – somewhere you’d head for a truly distinct fashion artefact, rather than your daily basics. That could, however, be about to change, thanks to a new collaboration with Uniqlo.

Indeed, the meeting of a relatively fashion-insider-y Milanese house with one of the world’s largest high-street fashion powerhouses is one that may raise a couple eyebrows on first reading. How, after all, do two brands that – on the surface at least – have so little in common work together to create a successful collection? Very well, was the answer that both parties discovered, with the differences between them bringing about clashes that spurred the collection’s development along.

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It was the pronounced eccentricity of Marni that first caught the eye of Yukihito Katsuta, Uniqlo’s head of R&D. “Generally speaking Uniqlo has historically focused on making clothing that is practical and functional,” he continues, “We are of course proud of offering products that also incorporate a refined design sense, but Marni’s use of vivid colours and patterns, and architectural designs, is an aspect that Uniqlo does not possess,” allowing for a new sense of vibrancy and experimental flair to be brought to the global brand.

The resulting collection offers a span of easy-wearing pyjama sets, shirts, suits and even weather-hardy outerwear that fuse Uniqlo’s signature clean silhouettes and advanced textile technologies with inimitably Marni visuals. Floaty wide-leg pyjama trousers are printed with seemingly handpainted ginghams, crisp royal blue poplin shirts with broad-brushstroke florals. Bubble skirts exhibit complex, swirled pattern cutting that causes the pieces to gently puff with each step, and waterproof parkas in bright block hues have subtle tulip silhouettes.

To learn more about this delightfully expected meeting of minds, we sat down with Marni creative director Francesco Risso in Milan to discuss the process behind the final product, bringing texture to flat surfaces, and his favourite looks.

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Hi Francesco! First off, congratulations! You’ve really managed to create something that maintains Marni’s eccentricity, but that still feels very accessible? Thank you! It was really a great opportunity. Even though Uniqlo produces a lot of clothes, I must say that the quality and finishing are impeccable, and at such democratic pricing. I'm really happy that this has come to life, not just for Uniqlo to bloom in a new way, but also for Marni to present itself to a new world.

**Are you a big Uniqlo fan yourself?
**Yeah, I've always been a customer. There are some classics that I've bought over the years, like a mock neck knit -- it's quite cinematic, in a way, that I've been buying them at Uniqlo, because you usually can’t find them unless you go to a vintage store! There's just something interesting in the recipe that Uniqlo has -- it's design that's very pragmatic and pure, but that has the air of another time.

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**What was the jumping-off point when working on this collection?
**The first and most immediate thing is that we found each other in such different places. On the one hand, Uniqlo is a company that works in line with very strong codes of pragmatism, purity, minimalism – it's very much about the everyday and not overdoing the look, but rather exalting the persona of the wearer. And then on the other hand, you have us -- we're basically in a continuous pursuit of chaos and fantasy. We also work relentlessly with our hands in a very sensorial way – it's about expressing the hand of the individual. It's our way of exalting a sort of humanity through what we do. That was an immediate, strong connection -- we had to try to translate some of our strong shapes into Uniqlo materials, which yielded interesting surprises. And equally, we applied our textures on Uniqlo’s very pragmatic pieces, which allowed for new perceptions.

Well, clashes and contrasts can be productive, right? Yes, very! And here they generated opportunities to learn from each other, and I'd say that's the most beautiful thing that can come from a collaboration. It isn't just about putting two logos together. When we collaborate with people in the Marni community, it's really about creating work together that evolves with openness, so I feel really lucky that we've been able  that to bring that to this collaboration.

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What would you say the spirit of Marni is, and how does that make itself felt here? I always like to think about Marni as a place where you can find your own home, even amid the eclecticism. We always aim to involve people in a dialogue when we're developing ideas, and our stores are containers for those ideas. The way that we make collections also passes through a lot of study – not just of the main theme we’re exploring, but also of why things happen in our society, or why they happened years ago. It's a beautiful learning process for us, and it enables us to make clothes that can bring us together -- that's the most beautiful desire that we have in the Marni family. I think this same desire was brought into the collection here -- there's a bit of a chaotic mixture of pyjamas, suits and outerwear all together, but it's also very soft and very domestic. It's not imposing anything, and I feel like that's a step towards bringing people together, finding a way to connect people through a very human way of wearing things. It's not about going against the body or being disruptive, it's about being softer, being gentler.

What was the process of working with Uniqlo on this like?  
Their team was incredibly supportive, incredibly prepared, and, technically speaking, they're masters. There are many examples of huge companies the size of Uniqlo where the quality and ideas get jeopardised because of the way the wind is blowing, but I find Uniqlo's sense of coherency extremely inspiring. It was always a beautiful surprise to receive these impeccable products. And it's been great to experience that this precision isn't just a design intention, but it’s actually an integral part of their method of working.

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**A feeling of the hand has always been integral to your vision for Uniqlo -- how did you bring that to this collaboration?
**What was interesting is that the Uniqlo world isn't about textures. It's actually about very sharp surfaces. So the way we brought the textures into the equation is through prints that were painted by hand, and this juxtaposition of these flat surfaces and a sense of the hand that comes through in a visual manner, rather than through tactility.

What are you wearing from the collection? And where? I've actually been wearing it while we were making it in the studio! There's a pair of jeans in particular that I wear all the time, and can't wait to wear the rest this summer.

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Head here to shop the Uniqlo x Marni collaboration, and follow i-D on Instagram and TikTok for more fashion.

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