The Japanese clothing brand Uniqlo is kind of like the Global Seed Vault in far northern Svalbard, Norway. If the world were to suddenly end and civilization collapse, then the ragged survivors would be able to stumble upon the ruins of a Uniqlo store and fully clothed themselves from the desaturated rainbow of t-shirts, socks, and layered, heat-reflective jackets. Fashion, of a sort, could be resuscitated, as long as the apocalypse refugees don’t have a taste for frills.
In some branches, the selection is particularly seasonal. The store in Brooklyn’s Atlantic Terminal, for example, is now firmly in the back-to-school, back to cooler temperatures mode, with racks of linen shirts swapped out for thicker cotton broadcloth oxfords ($30) in the same range of pastel colors and checked patterns and a variety of outdoorsy jackets replacing tank tops and polos.
It’s worth noting that the weather so far has refused to cooperate, which makes it difficult to get excited about water-repellant, long-sleeve gear. But Uniqlo’s fall 2015 offerings give off a vague air of enthusiasm for the actual end of summer, which will probably arrive sometime after Halloween.
There’s something amazing about Uniqlo’s apocalyptic vibe. It promises not just clothing but an entire method of existing in the world, a commitment to preparing their customers for whatever happens. It also hits a certain emotional and aesthetic tone that always reminds me of the iconic Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami’s books: a comfortable austerity designed for characters who have more important things on their minds.
The fall release in particular might be drawn from Murakami’s sweetly melancholic romance Norwegian Wood, which became a color-saturated film in 2010. Uniqlo’s convertible collar coat ($40) is perfect for trudging to the toolshed to retrieve a rake in an incipient drizzle. It even has a vent on the back, to give off that extra edge of formality that communicates to the world, “I was definitely kicked out of boarding school for a nonspecific but devastating problem that the narrator will eventually discover.”
In contrast, the mountain parka ($60) is made of stronger stuff, say, for the protagonist who has already constructed thick emotional armor that isolates him from those he holds dear. The symmetrical pockets impart a military ruggedness and the hood ensures added readiness. It’s also fire-retardant and water-repellent for emergencies. I can see myself wearing the parka while undertaking a photography trip in the forest during which I accidentally find my long-lost cat, but it doesn’t remember me.
This year, the brand’s Fall/Winter offerings are structured around elaborate layering that sees technical-fabric vests over plaid shirts over scarves. Soft, slouchy fabrics are still very much in fashion, along with high-cuffed pants and long coats. In October, Uniqlo will also release its collaboration with the former Hermès designer Christophe Lemaire, which features shapeless woolen and cashmere jackets and sweaters. Put these lines together and you have the ideal wardrobe for an anticipated autumn arrived late.
In Murakami’s Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, the narrator escapes into his subconscious, which has taken the form of a walled village where the residents carry out singular jobs and seem to feel a limited range of non-threatening emotions. When I first saw the Lemaire collaboration, it struck me how close it was to my imagined outfits for the fictional characters. Finally, I can pretend that my existence is devoted to maintaining a strange library full of useless objects and dress the part.
Stores are often defined by their ideal shopper, the archetypal customer whose tastes align with every patterned scarf and extraneous accessory available on the floor. For Uniqlo, it’s less about a particular person than the entirety of humanity in a vulnerable, decision-fatigued state. Basics don’t necessarily mean basic — rather, the store offers a collection of necessary building blocks for daily life.
Just remember, when your soul mate abandons you for inexplicable reasons or the world slowly shifts under your feet until you find yourself lost and confused even within your own life, Uniqlo will always be there to outfit you.