Celia Birtwell and Uniqlo: The fabric of time

Textile designer Celia Birtwell has explored her archive for a new collaboration with Uniqlo, says Rebecca Gonsalves


The Japanese brand Uniqlo has carved out a healthy sector of the British market thanks to its colourful knitwear and heat-tech thermals, but its long-running programme of collaborations ensure that it has a fashionable following as well.

The latest name in a roster that includes Jil Sander, Orla Kiely and Comptoir des Cotonniers is textile designer Celia Birtwell, who is most famous for her work in the Sixties and Seventies with husband of the time, Ossie Clark. Together the pair were the epitome of that era’s style, although Birtwell’s  work has remained in demand through the years.

For her Uniqlo collection, which launches today with an event at the brand’s Oxford Street store, archive prints have been reimagined, rescaled, reworked and recoloured into a range of pyjama pants, culottes, T-shirts and leggings.

“We gave Uniqlo quite an abundance of prints from my portfolio,” says Birtwell. “Old work, new work, we were very like-minded. I think we have the same sense of humour. I have always been inspired by oriental prints and love Japanese art, I would say I do have an affinity with Japanese culture.

“My favourite pieces are the scarves in the Cherry Pet Spot print,” says Birtwell. “It reminds me of my daughter-in-law’s dog, who has plenty of energy and personality. I combined the dog with my lucky black cat which I always draw – it’s a bit like the Celia Birtwell mascot.”

“So far it’s been an amazing  rollercoaster journey of ups and  downs and full of surprises,” says  Birtwell of her years in the industry. “I like what I do and it keeps me busy. It keeps me energised.”