UNIQLO (ユニクロ) is more than a fashion brand. It’s a lifestyle, the foremost representative of Japanese design, and a prime example of how through successful marketing, a little-known Japanese casual wear retailer can become one of the top 10 largest brands of its kind, and expand into more than 12 countries in a matter of years.
In June 1984, a Unique Clothing Warehouse (hence Uniqlo) unisex casual wear store was opened in Fukuro-machi, Hiroshima, by a Yamaguchi-based company Ogori Shōji (now Fast Retailing, of which Uniqlo is a subsidiary). By 1994, there were over Uniqlo 400 stores throughout Japan.
In 1997, Uniqlo adopted a set of strategies from the American clothing retailer The Gap, effectively making a policy to produce their own clothing and sell it exclusively. It’s not until the middle 00s, however, that the company became the juggernaut it is today.
Deals with celebrities, new designers (such as the renowned Jil Sander), and innovative viral marketing stunts (e.g., Uniqlock) allowed the company to rapidly expand to China, Hong Kong, South Korea, the United Kingdom, France, the United States, Singapore, Taiwan, Russia, Indonesia and Malaysia, and Tadashi Yanai, founder of Fast Retailing, to become the richest Japanese person.
So what exactly makes UNIQLO what it is? Most probably the unique corporate culture, innovative marketing and products such as the heattech line, and the extreme reliability thanks to the high quality materials and each of their foreign outlet store staff members receiving a 6-month training in Japan. UNIQLO stores only the staple items (tees, v-necks, underwear, &c.), in a huge variety of colours, and managed to strike the perfect balance between high quality and very low prices.
While other companies in a similar price-range such as Zara or H&M follows all the latest fads and fashions, the Japanese designer tries to stay with the classics, catering to fashionistas looking for a cheap and reliable place to stock up on essentials. This is coupled with a select range of designer items, also at reasonable prices that have been designed by either world-famous brands and designers, or some new up and coming talent.
As a little trivia, UNIQLO is the official supplier of uniforms for Japan’s Olympic team, and Tadashi Yanai recently donated over 25.6 million dollars of his personal wealth to Japan earthquake relief.
What about you? Do you wear UNIQLO, or at the very least sport the slick Uniqlock screensaver?