We chatted with designer and artist, Hana Tajima, about her latest collaboration with Uniqlo and bringing hijabs and modern modest dressing to the world.
Visual artist and designer, Hana Tajima, is known for her refined elegance and effortless esthetic. Born in the UK and raised by her artist parents, her upbringing was highly creative with an emphasis on expressive freedom. Tajima’s career took off when she grew an audience with her her blog, formally known as stylecovered.com, where she shared a unique voice in the fashion world.
Inspired by her Japanese roots (her father is Japanese) and English upbringing, with a professional background in fashion, the former MAYSAA designer has become known for her streamlined garments that are culturally sensitive while being light, breathable and contemporary.
In 2015 she launched her first collaboration with mega Japanese retailer, Uniqlo, which has been praised for being an extremely versatile and inclusive collection for women looking for stylish and modest fashions. Her latest spring/summer collection for Uniqlo marks the fourth collab with the brand, which is set to hit Canadian soil for the first time at the Toronto Eaton Centre and Yorkdale Shopping Centre on February 24th.
We chatted with the talented and smart Tajima about her relationship with Uniqlo, her newest collection and her creative process.
1. What was your personal relationship with Uniqlo before you started working with the brand?
My relationship with Uniqlo goes back quite a ways, my mom used to travel to Japan quite a lot and she was really obsessed with Uniqlo. She’d bring back items and as soon as they opened in the U.K. it was sort of like a real revelation, for me and being able to get them so closed to home was really fantastic. It felt like a really natural fit for us to work together.
2. Can you tell me about how this collaboration with Uniqlo came about and how has it evolved?
It started when Uniqlo was expanding into south east Asia and they were interested in how the market would respond to their idea of LifeWear. They found that a lot of these markets wanted something that was a more modern esthetic and because I worked a little bit over there and because of my background, they contacted me to see if we could strike up a relationship. They were really receptive to the ideas that I had, and we just started working together on the fall/winter 2015 collection. It seems that every year we have been sort of jointly trying to figure out the feedback from customers and address it. We weren’t expecting that a lot of non-Muslim customers were buying the collection, and it has really expanded from there each season.
3. Were there any challenges you encountered during the development?
I think the challenges are similar to anyone who’s designing for a global market. You have different seasons so when I’m designing for fall/winter there are countries that are going to be hot all year, so finding fabrics that are both breathable and able to be layered but still sort of have that element even in warmer climates. Playing around with textures and things like that help to create the sort of illusion of something heavier but its a real sort of interesting way to look at it because it’s obviously a global collection.
4. What were your style inspirations for this collection?
For me it’s much more about the process. I may not start with a visual reference but there’s sort of an idea in mind and I'll work with fabrics and drape on the stand to create something. For spring/summer I wanted something that had that feeling of movement and lightness and being able to work directly on a body or on a form allows that sort of connection to the wearer. Something that was more sculptural so you have this sort of interesting dynamic between these really fluid lightweight pieces and then these sort of more sculptural elements.
5. What design elements create a beautiful hijab?
I think for hijab especially it’s about the fabric. It’s so close to your face and you’re wearing it for a whole day and in spring and summer it has to be something that feels comfortable that feels non-restrictive so it's great being able to work with Uniqlo’s performance fabrics (AIRism) because they are very cooling and light. It allows us to bring those two ideas together, this sort of modern esthetic of life wear and being able to bring those into this signature piece for the collection, it was really exciting.
6. What are you trying to achieve through your designs?
I think there’s an idea with these designs that I wanted to create some sort of connection because for me it was really important that these designs were for everyone and I know that with Uniqlo it’s the same. We really wanted to be able to take these sort of influences and ideas from all these different cultures and backgrounds but to create a collection that was really for everybody and that embodied the ideas of LifeWear. But with a more modern esthetics. Being able to have a platform that allows people to really celebrate these different cultures in a way that everyone is able to relate to because it's fashion and it’s something that we instinctively know how to approach. It’s a really easy way for people to connect to each other on a very personal level.
7. How do you describe your connection with fashion and modesty?
For me it’s part of the same thing, I think everyone has their idea of their own personal style and it’s very individual so being able to design in a way that represents both those aspects feels like this I’m pulling from the same thing.
8. Do you think mainstream fashion is doing enough to cater to the needs of Muslim women?
I think it’s definitely improved and there are a lot of interesting ways that brands are trying to approach this. Uniqlo is really trying to understand the needs of Muslim women and modest wear in general, like how people will wear these designs and how it will create a new and interesting idea that isn’t necessarily in the market already. It’s trying to find a different sort of way at looking at fashion that isn’t necessarily in the mainstream.
9. Do you have any styling tips for women who dress with modesty in mind?
I think it’s just about finding something that feels comfortable to yourself, both physically and just the idea of modest fashion, people can interpret for themselves. Being able to find a level of that, that you’re comfortable with. Hopefully these clothes in the collection are able to help people find their own balance of comfort, both in what their wearing and how they feel.
For more styling tips from Tajima check out her how-to videos with pieces from her new collection with Uniqlo.