There are really only two ingredients in a high-low designer collaboration destined to fly off shelves: a designer label and a mall-centric mass-retail collaborator. These elements are just enough to generate buzz, but not necessarily enough to feel inspired. Two collaborations announced earlier this month feel like a change to the brand-plus-brand-equals-sales script—one that, to this shopping editor, seems like a move in a refreshing direction.
To recap, in chronological order: Last Tuesday, Banana Republic said it had partnered with New York–based designer Peter Do on a capsule collection “designed for people living multifaceted lives” that will arrive in October. This so far translates into oversize, neutral outerwear and utility shirting, according to limited collection imagery released with the announcement.
The following day, Uniqlo said that Clare Waight Keller, formerly the creative director of Givenchy, would release her first collection with the brand on September 15. Called Uniqlo : C, it is intended to introduce a “new standard” to Uniqlo’s womenswear line, from all-seasons gabardine coats to micro-floral dresses and shrunken knitwear. Also included: the retailer’s first-ever footwear and a larger, expandable version of its internet-famous nylon crescent bag.
Banana Republic and Uniqlo have remixed their massive scale with contemporary and luxury brands before. The former previously worked with Charles Harbison on a fall capsule inspired by his family; Uniqlo’s capsules with labels like Marni and J.W. Anderson tend to sell out.
With their latest collaborations, the excitement is more about bringing an individual’s discerning eye to a larger scale at precisely the right time. Waight Keller’s designs for Uniqlo will be her first pieces seen by the public in nearly three years, since she vacated her post at Givenchy in 2020. (She won Womenswear Designer of the Year at the British Fashion Awards in 2018 and dressed Meghan Markle in a custom bateau neckline gown for her wedding to Prince Harry.) Peter Do, after building a loyal fan base with his deconstructed suiting and must-have dumpling bag, is preparing to unveil his first collection as creative director of Helmut Lang at New York Fashion Week in September. That appointment has made several insiders more excited about the state of New York fashion than they have been in quite some time (at least based on what I’ve heard in small talk around the city this summer).
Then there are the pieces themselves. The admittedly limited first looks don’t strike a studied fashion observer as watered-down versions of what a large house already makes; they’re also not reading like an opportunity to smush two otherwise incongruous brands together to dress a handful of people at the center of a very small Venn diagram. The shapes, textures, and color combinations speak to the rise of logoless luxury and capsule wardrobing: Both collections are rooted in staples that will have a longer life span than the average mash-up item, like oversize gabardine trench coats and sumptuous solid knitwear. Do is finding ground with his own sought-after tailored pieces and vintage styles from Banana Republic’s archives; Waight Keller is building upon Uniqlo’s reputation for basics with more refined tailoring and advanced silhouettes. I, for one, am I excited to try Waight-Keller’s “perfect knife-pleat maxi skirt” for myself.
Discerning shoppers have already noticed the attention to detail. “Absolutely loving what I”m seeing! The structure is divine!” one commenter posted on Banana Republic’s glimpse at the designs with Do. Another took a glance at the trench coat teaser and discovered things they didn’t know they wanted: “The big lapels and shoulders I have been craving for two years!”
These collections fulfill a desire I know I share with the Instagram users commenting on last week’s announcements: a desire for intentional, well-made, and not-boring clothes at a not-exorbitant cost. It seems like these collections can do it all at once.
“We were thrilled with the response to the BR x PD partnership announcement,” Banana Republic head of marketing Meena Anvary told Bazaar in an email. “Peter Do is a brand that grew on social, and he has such a strong connection to his audience, which we really saw come to life the last few days!” When each collection finally goes live, we’ll have more to talk about.
This post will be updated when each designer collaboration is released.
Fashion Commerce Editor
Halie LeSavage is the fashion commerce editor at Harper’s BAZAAR. Her style reporting covers everything from reviewing the best designer products to profiling emerging brands and designers. Previously, she was the founding retail writer at Morning Brew and a fashion associate at Glamour.