With winter well on its way due to the year-sapping energy of COVID-19, you’ll need essentials. While it’d be great if every piece was a wildly rare Raf Simons overcoat, you’ll need some slightly more affordable pieces in your rotation—if only to save the Raf Simons coat for a special occasion.

A consistently reliable source of the affordably stylish is Uniqlo. While its latest ongoing collaborations with Christophe Lemaire (in the form of Uniqlo U) and attracts headlines and a cult following, Uniqlo has long worked with the likes of J.W. Anderson, Engineered Garments, Undercover and more.

Even while all of the aforementioned designers have created beloved collections for Uniqlo, it’s clear that one has loomed large above all the others. +J, its collaboration with Jil Sander is widely considered to represent the pinnacle of high-low, designer-fast fashion collaborations—setting the stage the highly prosperous and popular Uniqlo partnerships that would follow in its footsteps.

Formed back in 2009 with a debut Fall/Winter collection, +J arrived at a point when designer collaborations with fast fashion outlets like H&M were rampant, but not exactly renowned for quality. It was only the year prior that Comme des Garçons joined forces with H&M. Uniqlo’s expansion into the western market came with a respect for the quality of the products it created, with its chinos becoming a acclaimed in their own right on the likes of style blogs like Superfuture.

Uniqlo’s +J collection was renowned for its affordable price point, with prices topping out at a reasonable $250 for the outerwear. Prices on Grailed are even more affordable, with +J outerwear available for less than $200. With formal overcoats and relaxed but warm down jackets and gilets available, it’s the kind of range that’s essential to get through any winter.

More about Uniqlo +J

Launching with the Fall/Winter 2009, +J was highly sought-after from its inception. Part of this hype was because Jil Sander herself had stepped away from the spotlight, leaving Raf Simons to helm her eponymous brand while she launched a consulting firm. The desire for her designs hadn’t quelled, despite Simons doing a more-than-stellar job at the brand.

Jil Sander’s acrimonious split from the Prada group meant that there were a few changes—the biggest being that she couldn’t use her own name on clothing, something she’d noted her displeasure with. A bit of boardroom-meets-branding maneuvering, naming the partnership as “+J” ensured that everyone would simply call it Jil Sander’s collection anyway. Uniqlo plus Jil? Makes sense to us.

When asked about working with Uniqlo in a 2010 Q&A with The New York Times, Sander spoke of the similar values she held with the Japanese brand. “Japan has a lot of respect for quality and for innovation. The Uniqlo machinery adapted quickly to changes. There is enough craftsmanship around to develop, realize, and implement new ideas.”

Speaking about the reasoning behind the collection in the same New York Times Q&A, she said “Uniqlo was an opportunity to test my principles in a new field. And it felt like a worthwhile challenge to globalize quality at affordable prices. I want to propose smart uniforms for all those who don’t have the time, the means, or the patience to invent themselves anew every day.”

In 2020, it’s safe to say that this describes just about everyone buying clothes. So do yourselves a favor and get your hands on some +J, your wardrobe (and wallet) won’t regret it. It’s no understatement to say that +J actually embodies the thesis behind “designer fast fashion”: Create clothing that blends style and quality with a price the average shopper can actually afford.

For Fall 2020, Uniqlo and Jil Sander have announced they’ll be reuniting with a new collection under the +J banner. While the Japanese fast-fashion giant hasn’t given more details (outside of a vague “Fall 2020” release date), there’s no doubt that the pieces from this new collection—like the collections in the early-2010s will become grails in their own right. While waiting for this new batch of gear to drop from the +J partnership, make sure to brush up on the previous collections (and maybe even scoop a piece for your own archive) right here on Grailed.

Want to know more about designer Jil Sander? Read up here

Curious about other incredible Uniqlo Collabs? Get the lowdown on those collections here.

Want even more goods from Jil Sander? Browse more designs from Jil Sander here.

Tags: bang-for-your-buck, fast-fashion, engineered-garments, j-w-anderson, uniqlo-plus-j, uniqlo-plusj, uniqlo-j, jil-sander, uniqlo