#SESTYLE: Uniqlo Comes To Canada

When it was first announced, the news was too good to be true. People were practically lining up, waiting for their chance live through the experience. This wasn’t about tickets to a Beyoncé concert or getting a reservation to the new Momofuku restaurant. No, no. The anticipation was for the opening of a Uniqlo store.

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Founded in 1974, Uniqlo is a brand of Fast Retailing Co. Ltd., one of the largest apparel clothing companies in the world, with Uniqlo being Japan’s largest specialty retailer. With over 1,700 stores in 17 markets worldwide (locations across Asia, Europe and the US), this is the first one in Canada. Big news? Massive is more like it.

Located between Nordstrom and H&M at the CF Toronto Eaton Centre, spanning two stories and covering 27,400 square feet of space, the store features men’s and women’s clothing on the first and second floors, with a children’s section on the upper level.

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With an ethos of creating clothing for everyone, there are your basics (t-shirts, chinos, socks and underwear), endless stacks of denim (in multiple cuts and washes), knits (merino wool and cashmere), with plenty of flannel and fleece options – the company’s research has shown that Canadians love these textures.

For the colder months, there are separates with Heattech technology (a special weave that traps heat, despite its fine gage) as well as Uniqlo’s incredibly popular down–filled outerwear. Thin and light, they claim to keep its wearer warm no matter how chilly it is. Let’s see if their reputation can keep locals toasty in Toronto’s brutal winters.

And while most items are designed to be wardrobe essentials, collaborations with stylish French tastemakers Ines de la Fressange (iconic Chanel model) and Carine Roitfeld (style star and former French Vogue editor) add a bit of savoir faire to one’s closet. A classic trench coat, perhaps? A beret – and baguette – is not required to feel like a Parisian.

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The Eaton Centre store also featured the North American premiere of the Uniqlo U line (the 12 Us are to symbolize “U” can wear them 12 months a year). Under the helm of artistic director Christophe Lemaire, the line has an elevated design aesthetic. To quote them: “Every form made for function. Every element endlessly considered. Every design thoughtfully deconstructed, tested and distilled to its most essential and sophisticated.”

But, it’s not all about global reach. For the first time in Uniqlo’s history, they’re featuring local companies in a store (in this case, the Eaton Centre location), changing brands every two to three months based on a seasonal theme. With only a few Canadian locations currently planned to open, this is a way to bring a little bit of nationalism to an international retailer.

And with the current exchange rate, the Canadian merchandise is actually less expensive than the clothing in available in the US. Better get in line, because there are already people waiting to get in.

– Steven Carver

(All photos courtesy of Uniqlo/Ryan Emberley)

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