Photography: Masami Naruo

You might’ve read about the Uniqlo x Mame Kurogouchi Collection here a few weeks ago and perhaps taken a sneak peek at what you can expect from the limited-edition capsule and innerwear collection before you can finally add the items to cart. But if you haven’t, fret not cos we’ll fill you in on the deets!

Outside of Japan, the name Maiko Kurogouchi might not be a familiar one (yet), but in her motherland, the 36-year-old Nagano-born founder and designer of Mame Kurogouchi who grew up with the moniker ‘Mame’ is a force to be reckoned with in the fashion industry. After graduating from the prestigious Bunka Fashion College which boasts notable alumni such as Junya Watanabe, Yohji Yamamoto and the late Kenzo Takada, Maiko honed her technical skills at Issey Miyake before leaving it to launch the Kurogouchi Design Office and her own label in 2010.

After being named Best New Designer at the Mainichi Fashion Grand Prix Shiseido Sponsorship Award in 2014, Maiko bagged the Fashion Prize of Tokyo three years later and Vogue Japan’s First Rising Star Award. Last year, Mame Kurogouchi even collaborated with Tod’s for the Italian brand’s third T-Factory series, which is proof that the womenswear label is slowly but steadily thriving as it celebrates its decade of existence.

Photography: Uniqlo

With Maiko’s accomplishments and ability to balance the old and new, conceptual with commercial, and Japanese tradition with a global, contemporary appeal, it comes as no surprise that Uniqlo chose to work with the talented designer on creating a limited-edition capsule and innerwear collection that specifically caters to our current lifestyle and new-norm needs of working from home during this pandemic. In short: pieces that are not only aesthetically pleasing but also easy to mix and match – and most importantly, reasonably priced.

A woman’s daily life is filled with so many challenges on its own; the last thing she needs to worry about are her innerwear and wardrobe staples at the start of every day. Keeping that in mind, the Uniqlo x Mame Kurogouchi collection features timeless and effortless pieces of loungewear and innerwear that embody Mame Kurogouchi’s simple yet chic design ethos while utilising some of Uniqlo’s most-loved and well-known fabrics and technologies such as AIRism and 3D Knit. Here, Maiko tells us more about it.

Can you share your thoughts on this collaboration with Uniqlo?

“I view innerwear as beautiful, romantic garments that also require comfort, and I’ve long admired the soft comfort of Uniqlo’s innerwear. In addition to the wonderful functionality, I imagined a line of undergarments that could make women’s bodies look and feel beautiful. If women felt confident looking in the mirror each morning, I felt it could add joy to their everyday lives. And so, when I was creating this collection, I began with the functional elements I’d seek out when choosing undergarments and added design details such as a colour palette inspired by women’s natural skin tones, and cuts to frame the beautiful curves of the body. By blending design with Uniqlo’s world-leading technology, I envisioned a collection that allows women to transition easily and seamlessly from innerwear to clothing.”

Photography: Uniqlo

How would you describe your design philosophy?

“At Mame Kurogouchi, we always begin with textile creation, meaning the design process is a long one from the beginning to the end. I place great value on the clothes-making process, the road one garment takes from its design stages to the moment it lands in the customer’s hands. Working with the Uniqlo design team, I was moved to find that they shared a similar philosophy – approaching each garment from the creation of a textile to the finishing touches with a researcher’s mind. Through this collaboration, my hope was to enhance the natural beauty that lies within every woman, and I was thrilled to share the discoveries and joy with the Uniqlo team as we worked to reach the same goal.”

How has the changing times influenced your designs?

“Before the Covid-19 pandemic, I frequently travelled around Japan to meet with craftspeople and factories specialising in heritage traditions. No longer able to travel long distances, I found myself moving from place to place on foot or bicycle. Naturally, I began gravitating towards items that bring comfort, such as non-restrictive clothing and easy walking shoes – things that add a sense of freedom and activity to my day. When designing clothes for Mame Kurogouchi, I sought inspiration in the small events and discoveries of daily life, and for this collaboration, I imagined the small, intimate moments of joy in women’s lives around the world, thinking about the design aspects that would make them glow.”

Photography: Uniqlo
“If women felt confident looking in the mirror each morning, I felt it could add joy to their everyday lives.” – Maiko Kurogouchi

How did you come up with the concept for this collection?

“When designing clothes, my wish is to give women an extra bit of confidence; to help them stand tall and proud as they go about their days. This collection is centered around the most intimate items in a woman’s closet, and I thought about the elements that would best bring out a woman’s inner confidence and beauty. I wanted to create garments that would help each individual woman feel beautiful without worrying about anyone else’s standards. I pictured that special moment each morning – when a woman adorns a piece from the collection and revels in the joy it brings!”

What message do you want to convey to women around the world?

“When I design clothes, I’m always hoping for women around the world to enjoy freedom in their daily lives. If this collection helps to create a sense of liberation – freeing women to live their lives comfortably and actively – I’d be delighted! From the design sketch stage, I imagined comfortable garments that would inspire women to move. Big changes don’t happen in a day; the accumulation of small changes eventually leads to a significant shift. To know a garment isn’t only comfortable but looks beautiful and enhances your body’s curves adds a little ease to the day. The comfort and beauty of all women are central to this collection, and if I can help to bring a little joy to their daily lives, then I can ask for nothing more.”

Photography: Uniqlo

The Uniqlo x Mame Kurogouchi collection is priced from RM24.90 to RM199.90. For inspo on how to style the pieces, click here. The full collection will be available online starting tomorrow and at Uniqlo Fahrenheit88 from 2nd July 2021, while other stores will carry a selected line-up.

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