Date
3 October 2018
Reading Time
4 minute read
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In Jonathan Djob Nkondo’s animation Comfort Zone, Uniqlo’s Ultra Light Down takes a trip

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Date
3 October 2018
Reading Time
4 minute read

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In partnership with

Style doesn’t have to be superficial; it can keep you warmer, cooler, drier. Uniqlo creates LifeWear by evolving the ordinary, producing innovations that benefit you every day.

As part of our Ones to Watch 2018 campaign, It’s Nice That is working with Uniqlo to explore a variety of its products through a series of creative commissions. The second in the series, launching today, sees animator Jonathan Djob Nkondo interpreting the technology of Ultra Light Down in a new perspective.

Uniqlo Ultra Light Down is one of its most recognisable, popular products, and that won’t be surprising to anyone who’s ever navigated inclement weather – ULD offering a highly functional, warming range of outerwear and layering products. Every jacket, coat or vest can be rolled up tight and packed into a pouch, making it ideal for carrying around, waiting for that inevitable downpour or sudden chill.

Jonathan Djob Nkondo’s animation, Comfort Zone, opens with the protagonist waking from a secluded, dune-top nap, only to discover rain drops falling from the sky, scuppering his plans for a chill time. But in this seemingly futuristic landscape, a tap on the character’s watch launches a padded, protective “pod” from his backpack; from the centre of which he proceeds to bounce, slide and roll across the vast terrain.

The “pod” is an imagined reinvention of Uniqlo’s Ultra Light Down (ULD), inspired by its portability and adaptability, the water-repellent coating, and its “bouncy” potential. Jonathan found that the look of ULD reminded him of “bouncy castles”, and his first port of call was “trying to visualise the universe of the film”, which alongside the character of the “pod”, is also a reimaging of ULD as a landscape, each environment representing a different quality of ULD.

Throughout his mission, the character is propelled by the versatility and utility of Ultra Light Down: “it’s versatile, easy to transport, [water-resistant] and can capture body heat, [and it was these properties] that helped most when visualising the concept of the animation. I wanted to create something that allows him to move through different environments ¬– a sort of giant ball or tyre [for a person to fit inside]” says Jonathan.

In the first instance, the portability of Ultra Light Down products and the water-repellent material are introduced; before the zip of the jacket becomes a sort-of underground, twisting cave, leading to a frozen landscape of icebergs; and the ULD padding is translated into rolling sand dunes and steaming volcanoes. It’s the versatility of Ultra Light Down that shows through, including at the close of the animation, when the protagonist pushes his ULD pod in a way that no one should try at home.

In terms of references for the animation, Jonathan counts ideas of the near-future, comics and inanimate objects or things as characters, as some of his main influences; with the surreal, Zabriskie Point meets Teletubbies landscape, and The Little Prince via Takeshi’s Castle story, you can certainly see the sci-fi element coming through. He describes the protagonist of Comfort Zone as “a random guy… comfortable and secure in his bubble, so he spends most of his time sleeping in it”. But the nature of the relationship between the character and his bubble isn’t made entirely clear – “We don’t know exactly at what level he is voluntarily avoiding these situations, or to what extent the giant bubble is controlling him” – again harking back to the narrative themes of B movies and graphic novels.

When working out the details for the aesthetic of the animation, Jonathan had a few points he wanted to hit: “I wanted the bubble to stand out visually, so I went for bright orange [which matches one of the many colour-ways of ULD]. I also wanted the environment to be reminiscent of Ultra Light Down, so the background is full of curves, and each element is composed with colourful stripes”. When thinking about the pacing of the story, Jonathan explains that he “wanted to inject some rhythm to it, because it’s fun to animate”.

“I could have done something more contemplative, but I feel like this way, the narrative is more entertaining, too” he says. With music by Niv Bavarsky and sound design by Thomas Williams, Comfort Zone has a lightness of touch to it that defies the level of detail involved. And as he said in his Ones to Watch interview: “The mentality behind all my work is to tell a story in a unique way. Simple stories, few elements, with a smart way to add narrative”.

To find out more about the Ultra Light Down range and its features, head to Uniqlo’s website.

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About the Author

Billie Muraben

Billie studied illustration at Camberwell College of Art before completing an MA in Visual Communication at the Royal College of Art. She joined It’s Nice That as a Freelance Editorial Assistant back in January 2015 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis.

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