Ines de la Fressange’s latest fall/winter 2021 collection for Uniqlo is made for these pandemic times: her warm, snuggly pieces are perfect for lounging and cocooning at home with the family.
Since 2014, De la Fressange has collaborated with global apparel retailer Uniqlo and its design director, Naoki Takizawa, on 16 seasons of LifeWear that have spread the gospel of French fashion at an accessible price.
And I’ve been an all-too-willing disciple. This season is even more exciting, because it’s full of Ines essentials — the type of clothes she wears from day to day.
She was inspired by memories of the Christmas holidays she spends every year at the Grand Chalet of Rossinière, an 18th-century wooden house that is one of the oldest cabins in Switzerland and is now a historical cultural heritage site that accepts vacationers.
The Swiss village of Rossinière itself is beloved by artists for its beautiful mountain scenery. Located in the Lake Geneva district, its pastoral views of meadows stretching over mountain valleys has had a profound influence on many painters like Balthus, the late painter who called the Grand Chalet his final home.
Ines, who is friends with Balthus’ artist wife and daughter, has designed a casually chic wardrobe with silhouettes so roomy they’ll feel as comfy as pajamas yet take you from Zoom meeting to Zoom meeting with no loss of style.
From a base of beige moss-green earth tones and sunny yellows, an expanded range of styles include cashmere-blend knit ponchos, 3D-knit dresses with flowy silhouettes, check patterns and small floral accents, ensemble knits in lamb’s wool, and a characteristically Ines style of masculine jacket. Small items such as berets and reusable shopping bags in a wide variety of patterns are also on offer — perfect for those grocery runs.
This season I really wanted to focus on what I myself wear — my ‘essentials.’ These are items that can be mixed easily, so it’s elegant but warm, casual but elegant.
Here, Ines talks about her latest collection, why Rossinière resonates so much with her, and which are the three essential items you have to have this season.
Could you describe this season's collaboration in your own words?
INES DE LA FRESSANGE: This season I really wanted to focus on what I prefer since forever and what I myself wear — my “essentials” — finally. Today we don’t want to have too much, but instead they must be the right things. These are items that can be mixed easily, so it’s elegant but warm, casual but elegant.
Also, I love clothes that could be included in a film, yet without being anecdotic. However, I want a poetic feeling, or the idea that they could be clothes worn in a novel or even painted by a painter!
What are your three favorite items for this season?
I love the yellow cardigan because it reminds me of my childhood. I love the corduroy jackets that will become even more beautiful with time and are casual and sophisticated at the same time. And I love the tweed coat that is very elegant.
There are many sweaters this time, but which is your favorite?
I have to say the yellow cardigan. I love it! The cardigan was inspired by the Scottish sweaters I used to wear as a child. It can be easily mixed with other items, and my recommendation? Oh, wear it with a cotton shirt or a T-shirt underneath — either will be perfect!
Why do you like items made of natural materials so much?
Today I have the feeling everyone wants to go back more and more to natural things, and personally I like comfortable, natural materials such as wool, cotton and silk. These are fabrics that I love since forever, and this season we have several sweaters, cotton shirts and silk shirts. So, I am very happy!
Which items do you wear when you are at home?
I have kept the sweatpants we did at Uniqlo a few seasons ago. They are still nice, just like the jeans we did. So often at home I wear a large comfortable sweater with jeans and casual shoes.
This season is the 16th collaboration with Uniqlo. How do you feel about working with Uniqlo for such a long time?
Oh, it’s like a successful marriage! (laughs) The trust, the enthusiasm and the joy are even stronger today than in the beginning, but above all I am happy that we could prove with Naoki Takizawa what I have believed since forever: that beauty and style are universal, and that’s what customers expect and love.
Destination as inspiration
Why is Rossinière so attractive as a destination?
Switzerland is such a beautiful country. All places around the Grand Chalet have been very much preserved. All the houses are antique, and even if they build something new, they do it in the same traditional way. From Montreux there is a little train that goes up the mountains. The whole trip is very charming. The valley around the lake is gorgeous and I love the village of Gruyère, where you eat very good fondue or raclette, and meringue with fresh cream. Oh, it’s all so good!
What is the reason you love the Grand Chalet?
Well, it’s a gorgeous house, in fact the largest wooden house in Europe. So it’s very special. But above all the Grand Chalet has history. It was the house of the late painter Balthus (Balthasar Klossowska de Rola), and his widow Setsuko still lives there today with their daughter Harumi and her family. I have been visiting this house for a long time. They are marvelous friends.
So how do you spend your time at the Grand Chalet?
Usually I go there with my family during Christmas. In the house everyone prepares the presents and we decorate the tree with the children. We also go for long walks, read in bed, and chat next to the fireplace. It’s a slow pace of life that gives you the impression you are in the 19th century and I totally love it.
We also have long lunches and dinners, and it’s fun to see everyone arriving one by one for breakfast in the mornings. There are many dogs and cats, too. The family loves animals so we also spend time with them.
What do you wear when you spend time in the Chalet?
During the time of the late Balthus, it was quite dressy in the evenings, but today it’s more casual. Personally, I love sweaters and jackets, since they are timeless. And this is perfect for the Chalet, a place that hasn’t changed for a long time and gives you the impression of being in another century. Velvet pants are nice, too, because they keep you warm but are always elegant. Setsuko is often with gorgeous kimonos and I remember Balthus used to wear some, too. I would always admire this elegant couple with so much talent.
What are your other favorite spots in Rossinière besides the Grand Chalet?
The Chapel in memory of Balthus that is next to his grave, which has interesting movies to watch inside. The atelier or studio where he worked is also a favorite spot of mine. Rossinière is a small village but there is one or perhaps two hotels, I think. Just one grocery store and a restaurant called La Chaudanne.
However, in Chateau d'Oex or Gruyère there are many places to visit. Very near there is Gstaad, but Gstaad is a little too snobbish for me! (laughs) There is also Vevey, where Charlie Chaplin once lived. All that is around the Leman Lake such as Geneva is certainly worth a visit.
The life of a model designer
It has been more than one year since the pandemic first struck. How do you spend your ordinary life?
I still work, of course, a lot with my laptop and from home, but I still have meetings and appointments. Today, for instance, I have a meeting with people who are working on jewelry for my own brand. And to see the stones themselves you must do it in person, not by Zoom or video. I am lucky to be vaccinated, so it’s a protection for me and the others. But life is obviously slower and in some ways it’s not that bad.
Where would you like to go after the pandemic?
I would love to go back to India, which is a country I love. They are in a terrible situation now and I deeply hope it will get better soon. How I wish we would be able to do the Uniqlo campaign there once and bring Naoki to discover this country that I have told him a lot about.
Lastly, do you have a message for the fans of the Ines collaboration line?
This collection will be a joy to wear, to mix, and to keep. You won’t be cold and will be stylish every day. Try different sizes. For once, for example, try one size bigger or smaller, and you will have a few good surprises. Don’t hesitate to buy the same items in a different color. That’s a sign of your personality! And lastly, imagine you are the heroine of a film, so dressing up becomes fun and enjoyable.
Uniqlo x Ines de la Fressange fall/winter 2021 will be available at select Uniqlo stores and https://www.uniqlo.com/ines/21fw/ph/ on Sept. 10. You can shop the full range of Uniqlo LifeWear online at www.uniqlo.com/ .