Uniqlo Collaborates with MoMA

New York -- Uniqlo’s new SPRZ NY collection aims to bring contemporary art to a national audience like never before. But will Jackson Pollack T-shirts and Jean-Michel Basquiat jackets sell in suburban mall stores?

Art collectors of ArtKabinett social media network can be seen sporting these inexpensive and artistic fashions.

Japan’s biggest retailer is on a mission to conquer the U.S. market with plans for 200 stores by 2020. They took the wraps off SPRZ NY (“Surprise New York”) at its global flagship store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan this week.

The merchandise collection, which reflects a collaboration with the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, features 200 t-shirts, polo shirts, light jackets bandanas and tote bags inspired by iconic artists Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring and Jackson Pollock, as well newer artists such as Ryan McGinness and Sarah Morris.

The items feature graffiti, graphic design and street photography, contemporary-art themes that have been part of New York City’s cultural DNA — which dovetails with Uniqlo’s “global meets local” ethos, Eileen McMaster, vice president of public relations for the chain, with 17 U.S. stores and 500 units worldwide, said during a press tour today.

Art Accessible For The Masses

Although elaborate museum-like displays showcasing SPRZ NY are unique to the Fifth Avenue store, the line will be available at all Uniqlo stores worldwide, including its U.S. mall stores, with accompanying information on the artists and their work.

And that’s by design. “We want to make art accessible to the broader public,” which ties in with Uniqlo’s “design for all” philosophy, McMaster said.

With this art-meets-fashion line, Uniqlo is not only looking to change the way America shops by selling affordably priced, performance-enhanced clothing with features such as its exclusive heat-retaining Heattech technology.

The company also seeks to strip art of its high-brow connotations and make it a part of the national conversation in a commercial setting.

But the question remains: Is SPRZ NY, peppered with things like t-shirts by New York-based artist Jack Pierson, whose work explores “love, creation, death and isolation,” according to Uniqlo press materials, sellable to a mass audience?

Yes, and now more than ever, said Eva Respini, curator, photography for MoMA, during the press tour.

There’s an appetite for contemporary art that didn’t exist just 10 years ago, evidenced by the museum’s visitors over the decade, she said.

And everyone loves an affordably priced T-shirt, McMaster said. “Our UT [t-shirt line] is a huge seller for us,” she said. “A t-shirt is a universal thing as opposed to a trend of the season.”

SPRZ NY ranges from $4.90 to $49.90, and will be updated regularly with items inspired by additional artists.