There is something to be said about the simplicity yet powerfulness of a graphic tee. Rei Matsunuma, UNIQLO’s global marketing manager and the mastermind behind the UT collections, connected with S/ to explore the rationale behind the collection, collaborations, and pop-up exhibit.
Transcending time and genre, the “UT WEAR YOUR WORLD Exhibit” is displaying nearly 1,000 carefully curated pop culture graphic tees from around the world that speak to the individuality and tastes of wearers. Under the theme “WEAR YOUR WORLD”, the exhibit is exemplifying the intersection of art and pop culture by offering something for everyone, while evolving the brand’s LifeWear commitment to quality and comfort.
Dreaming up entirely bigger, better, and more covetable UT collections, the 2018 collection is being showcased over multiple installations at 202 Queen St W in Toronto from May 2 – 5. Read on for what Matsunuma has to say.
With such a broad spectrum of genres, artists, and icons featured in the UT collection, what inspires the designs and how do you choose what to include?
“One of our goals is to spread global pop culture, and the first thing we do is look for up-and-coming artists as well as known artists within different genres. These are the individuals we look into and decide to get in contact with. Some may be apart of Disney or other companies, however, when working with companies like Disney there is a specific licensing board you need to follow. We find that when following many board rules the vision doesn’t feel unique enough, so to create our own identity we collaborate artists to produce an exclusive design.”
UNIQLO has many amazing collections and collaborations, what is the key importance of the UT collection?
“What’s most important in collaboration work is the concept in each project and having our message or image of the works understood by the artists or groups we are collaborating with. For example, one of our concepts is “humble masterpieces,” and we are working with companies all around the world to get that theme across our t-shirts. This creates value in the product, so UNIQLO benefits from this as well as the companies we are working with.”
After only a few years of UNIQLO being in Canada, how much of an impact has the Canadian market made on the UT collections?
“In terms of the Canadian market, there isn’t a huge difference compared to the global market, but as a Japanese company, we do want to introduce Japanese culture. An example of this is Weekly Shōnen Jump magazine. This is a Japanese magazine that is selling quite well and it is now penetrating into the Canadian Market. What we are hoping for in the future is to introduce Canadian culture into the global market.”
How have things changed for the UT collections over the years?
“We started in 2007 and, over time, our concept of introducing pop culture into the world through the use of graphic tees has not changed. Although, one factor that is important is trying to preserve the past and value what should be passed onto future generations, as well as picking up worldwide pop culture that might not be globally recognized and introduce it. Keeping both in mind, it is very important to change from season to season, but keeping this concept our main focus.”
What is the process of how the collaborations are conceived?
“Extensive talks are the key here. For example, this year the animated character Doraemon and artist Takashi Murakami are collaborating. This is a Japanese artist, a Japanese character, and a Japanese company. So what UNIQLO and Mr. Murakami are doing is trying to spread this pop icon of Japan to the world, and together they discuss and share their concepts in order to create something new as well as different.”
Do you have a favourite T-shirt design that speaks to your self-expression?
“In this particular season, Barry Mcgee’s designs are so iconic. He’s not just a musician and artist, but he is a skateboarder as well. This is very important because he is not universally known, but people who are involved in skateboarding know he is a legend in the skating community. So with our collaboration, we want people to recognize that UNIQLO understands the skating scene as well.”
What can we expect to see in future UT collections?
“Considering how large pop culture is, and that we have only worked on the UT collections for 10 years, there is more to do than what we have already accomplished. Specifically, we love Toronto and how rich the city is with art, culture, and music that we want to connect with the local community. So in collaboration with the UT collections, we would like to introduce more global culture and cities.”