Clare Waight Keller on Her UNIQLO: C Collection, Design Philosophy and the Power of Inclusivity

From her trailblazing stint at Chloé to designing for Japanese retailer UNIQLO, Clare Waight Keller shows us why she’s still a powerhouse to be reckoned with.
Published: April 5, 2024
Mass Attraction: Clare Waight Keller on her Collaboration with Uniqlo
Photo: Courtesy of Uniqlo

Fashion devotees know Clare Waight Keller for her work at Givenchy and Chloé. Others know her as the designer behind Meghan Markle’s royal wedding dress. Now that she has launched her second collection for UNIQLO, weaving her signature savoir-faire with the style codes of the ubiquitous Japanese fast fashion giant, she has garnered a wider following.

Mass Attraction: Clare Waight Keller on her Collaboration with Uniqlo
Photo: Courtesy of Uniqlo

Keller’s vision of elevating the everyday wardrobe comes alive through an array of knit cardigans, airy blouses and other chic staples. Designed to maximise ease of movement and wearability, most of the pieces are made from lightweight fabrics, and feature loose silhouettes with balanced proportions.

Spring/summer is a season when there’s a lot of occasions. You’re going to someone’s wedding, there might be parties, but everything’s outdoors, so you want that fresh palette,” Keller says. Reminiscent of the fluid, clean lines that she is synonymous with, some of her favourite pieces from the collection include the army green trenchcoat, the stand collar oversized coat and the pleated camisole dress.

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Mass Attraction: Clare Waight Keller on her Collaboration with Uniqlo
Photo: Courtesy of Uniqlo

While one might expect Keller’s luxury background to be antithetical to UNIQLO’s commerciality, the two were more similar than expected. Citing the purposeful approach the UNIQLO team took in curating the collection and allowing her the freedom to work solo, the British designer revealed that she had more fittings for this collection than that of other luxury brands. She says: “I can check the entire process myself. I have plenty of time, and I am never too busy.”

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Mass Attraction: Clare Waight Keller on her Collaboration with Uniqlo
Photo: Courtesy of Uniqlo

UNIQLO’S ‘Made For All’ ethos was something Keller eagerly leaned into. “I’m thinking about the everyday person on the street. It’s really someone I would connect with,” shares the British designer. “Because of the UNIQLO brand, more people can wear the clothes we make. I am very happy to have the opportunity to work with UNIQLO to make my designs accessible to [them].” In her interview with ELLE Singapore, she shares her design approach and the joy her collaboration has brought to herself and others.

Tell us about your collaboration with UNIQLO.

The collection is about bringing casual chic to an everyday, essential wardrobe. For me, that captures a modern and effortless sense of style. Sophistication and casualness—these are two words that I always love to play with. I also wanted the ease; these clothes are made for the fact that you’re probably going on holiday, or you’re commuting across the city in quite warm temperatures and climates. So it’s that idea of lightness in cotton, and in nylon coats, in case of a sudden shower. It’s thinking about the way you use clothes in everyday life and how you layer everything together. I’ve thought very much about how you could incorporate an airy and light outerwear piece over a dress, and what that proportion and attitude looks like.

With your haute couture background, did you need to make a mental shift for this collaboration?

Designing a collection on this scale was new territory for me, and it was very intriguing to work on my own. It became a chance for me to work on a collection from my own archive, reflecting my personal opinion of effortless and classic style. [It] is a great pleasure for me to work on the UNIQLO: C collection. The UNIQLO team considers the purpose behind every piece, and how that item becomes an essential part of your wardrobe. That really tapped into my own approach. I have always created clothes for women to wear in their everyday lives.

How has your expertise working with a wide range of fabrics influenced your design process at UNIQLO?

When designing the intricate pleating for some of the UNIQLO: C pieces, I was able to incorporate a few interesting techniques that I’ve used in the past. Of course, in order to maintain a certain price range compared to haute couture, different materials are used. So sourcing for the right fabric was critical to achieve the silhouette I envisioned. But I have to say, UNIQLO has very rigorous standards. To be honest, I had more fittings for this collection than that of a luxury brand. I was very relieved and happy about that.

What has been the most fulfilling takeaway from this collaboration?

To design clothes that resonate with the masses, and to make them feel confident as they transition from everyday life to special occasions. I had so many people sending me pictures on social media of themselves in the first collection. It was so thrilling to see how everyone was playing with the clothes, how they were styling them with their own wardrobes. You realise that people still get so much joy out of getting dressed, putting themselves together, and looking great in clothes. That’s what I want to bring to this season as well.

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