FASHION

”Young people are more conscious of looking good, even in ’comfort-wear’”

We speak to Uniqlo’s Masa Furuta on the challenges to create a sportswear wardrobe for this summer’s Olympics and Paralympics in a hot and humid Tokyo – and the future of sportswear.
By JOHAN MAGNUSSON
June 30, 2021

The opening ceremony of Tokyo’s Olympic Games is soon only three weeks away. This time, UNIQLO has provided the Swedish athletes’ collection to help them perform at their best. The innovative Japanese lifestyle brand’s collection includes not just uniforms, but items of clothing to keep them comfortable around the clock outside of competition, especially in Tokyo’s hot and humid summer weather.

— We created a new ”sportswear platform” that for the first time included several important elements all working together, tells Masa Furuta, chief designer, Research & Development. These include sustainability and using recycled materials in almost every product, conducting research with weather tests and functional experiments, receiving opinions and input from the Swedish athletes, as well as our global brand ambassadors who are athletes themselves, and our team of experienced in-house designers. So, we were constantly balancing the aspects of performance and sustainability and developing new materials with the view of possibly applying some or most of them in future products.

What was the most important thing to think about when designing the collection?

— Well, it’s difficult to imagine a Tokyo summer unless you live here. Our summer weather is a combination of hot and humid and public buildings, including stores, and public transportation, such as trains and subways, use air conditioning. The contrast in temperature between the outside and the inside can be quite dramatic, so we must be prepared to be comfortable in both, Furuta shares, continuing,

— When designing the collection for the Swedish athletes, humidity was an important factor for us to consider. To tackle this we looked at materials and other elements, for example colour combination, to help athletes remain as cool as possible. We achieved this by using a new color combination with a structure that enhances airflow and features holes positioned in the fabric. We also established a research center inside our global headquarters in Tokyo to conduct weather tests and functional experiments that create environments needed to develop comfortable clothing. It’s unusual for an apparel company other than a sportswear maker to run its own laboratory, but having our own facility gave us the chance to conduct tests promptly and use our findings faster to develop the best possible materials. That’s a great advantage, I believe.

If we look into the future of sportswear, what do you see?

— Ever since the coronavirus pandemic we have seen a preference from customers worldwide to purchase what I call ”relax-wear” or ”comfort-wear”, which may even be a new kind of word. The reality is that more and more people are looking at wearing items that are versatile, comfortable, and stylish, all at the same time, says Furuta, continuing,

— In the past, perhaps there was less interest to wear bright colors, and nowadays we know that young people are more conscious of looking good, even in ”comfort-wear”, so they prefer a stylish or even more sophisticated design.

— I think there will a continuation of innovating fabrics, silhouettes, and colors, as well as incorporating the important element of sustainability, especially in the area of recycled materials. Both global trends will continue. We will be looking at how we can combine these important elements together with our timeless design.

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