Hana Tajima, a multi-disciplinary artist and designer, has been producing a line of modest wear with UNIQLO since 2015. This season, the collection arrives at UNIQLO stores in Canada for the first time. The line includes drapey tunics with ties to change the fit, crisp collarless linen blouses and softly pleated trousers in a pleasing palette of navy, white, rust and olive green along with a range of hijabs and abayas. It’s all part of the Japanese basics purveyor’s “Life Wear” concept, which promises clothing for all. Indeed, the lavender duster coat and striped cropped trousers could seamlessly blend into anyone’s wardrobe—something Tajima says is intentional. Here’s how New York-based, London-raised Tajima is pushing back against homogeny in fashion through her empowering designs.
What’s your design process like?
“I design by draping on a form, a lot of the time I don’t know what the collection is going to be before I start. The draping process helps define it. A lot of asymmetry was coming out in my work, which accentuates the feeling of movement in these pieces.”
How has the line evolved since it began?
“We started off just in South East Asia, and for those countries it was a about bringing a different aesthetic to mainstream fashion. Because we were dealing with a hotter climate we were using really lightweight fabrics. The more we introduced the collection to other places around the world, the more we had to differentiate between seasons. The essence of it stayed the same, but the colours and fabrics have been adapted. The colours that sell the best in South East Asia very vibrant pinks and yellows, but here of course it’s black, navy and white. It’s really interesting to see those dynamics.”
What is it like to work with UNIQLO? Are you flying to Tokyo a lot?
“Oh, there’s a lot of travel to Tokyo, which on a personal level is really fantastic. They’re so dedicated to the perfection of an item and my approach has always been to refine and redefine what a shirt means, or what an individual item means.”
How does it feel to see a global brand take on this line?
“It’s really fantastic. I think it’s not just for Muslim women but for any sort of minority. Having a voice on a global platform is really inspiring and empowering. It’s indicative of a push back against a homogenous identity and what it means to be a woman.”
Was there a need that you heard women express that wasn’t being met before this collection?
“There’s definitely a correlation between the androgynous look and modest wear. And I think that where they intersect is this idea of redefining femininity. There are demands from both sides. From women who want to wear modest clothing for either religious or cultural reasons to women who want to redefine what it means to be feminine. For me, the process ends but the design gets transferred to the person wearing it. I want to provide details and different ways to wear a piece to allow people to interpret these designs in their own way.”
Hana Tajima for UNIQLO
When you’re talking to someone who is perhaps not the core customer for this line, are there misconceptions about modest wear?
“The term modest wear as a concept is tied to a certain cultural background. But it’s opening up. The name itself is sort of awkward and there’s still judgement about the person wearing it. But I think that the more we open that term up to mean something more inclusive, the better it’s going to be. And weirdly, fashion is considered something less weighty…”
“Exactly. But it allows people to connect because it gives us something to relate to. It lets people drop their guard and really connect with each other on a human level.”
Hana Tajima for UNIQLO