Take a look at the zip on the jeans that you are wearing, or the zip on the top that’s wrapped around your chair. Do you see the three inconspicuous little letters ‘YKK’ on the zip pull? The chances are, unless you own some kind of highly-specialised garments that most of your clothes’ zips are brandished with this ubiquitous mark. Why is this the case, and what does YKK even mean?
photo by BlueRidgeKitties
YKK is an abbreviation of Yoshida Kogyo Kabushikikaisha (吉田工業株式会社), a Japanese company founded in 1934 by Tadao Yoshida after his previous employer, which was also a company producing zippers, went bankrupt. After a set-back before the onset of WWII with his whole factory burning down, the business rapidly expanded overseas, developed and acquired new technologies such as automated manufacturing and a unique method of concealing the teeth of the zips.
YKK Group (YKKグループ) is now the worlds foremost zip manufacturer. In fact, more than 90% of all zips in the world are made in over 206 YKK facilities in 68 countries around the world, with the largest factory in Georgia making over 7 million zips per day. YKK don’t just want to be known for zips: YKK continue to grow both vertically and horizontally, producing not only zips, poppers and buttons, but also the machines and the brass used to make them.
They have such a colossal hold on their industry (which is nearly always the Japanese way) that other manufacturers opt not to compete and rather buy the zips from them. This is why even if your zip doesn’t say YKK on it, the chances are that it was made on a YKK machine, or in a YKK-owned plant.
What’s the secret behind Yoshida’s success? His company is following what he’s calling The Cycle of Goodness, which rests on the belief that, ‘No one prospers unless he renders benefit to others.’
This philosophy can be seen not only on the sheer quality and popularity of YKK’s products, but also on their environmental and HR policies. For instance, YKK claims to be the first zip company to promote environmental protection measures, and it was recently named in the top ten companies to work for in the glass industry.
How many YKK products do you have in your wardrobe? Let us know in the comments!