The United Nations of Uniqlo

Friday, July 24, 2020

Over the last 18 months, Uniqlo has gone from being a brand I had no idea existed to my preffered clothing brand. The simplicity of the designs and the great quality of the clothes have won me over. Be it solids, polos or graphic tees.

So when The Economist had a profile piece about Uniqlo by Amelia Lester, you bet I read it.

Some quotes that are telling of the story of the company, its success and its goals:

Uniqlo’s parent firm, Fast Retailing, is now the world’s third-largest clothing company, after Inditex (which owns Zara) and h&m. Today the ubiquity and predictability of Uniqlo’s products are part of the brand’s identity, an essential component of Yanai’s aspiration to become “the first truly global clothing brand from Asia”.

On the clothes:

Unusually for a clothing company, Uniqlo measures its significant milestones not in iconic outfits but in manufacturing breakthroughs. After its success with the fleece, Uniqlo rolled out more product lines that were distinguished by their functionality: a first-of-its-kind bra top with sewn-in cups, thermal underwear, moisture-wicking fabric and lightweight puffer coats filled with down.

What differentiates it from its competitors:

Unlike competitors that often feature aspirational pictures of models in perfectly fitting garb, Uniqlo stores use rotating putty-coloured mannequins (“a neutral colour that is not white”, a PR officer tells me).

I agree:

Uniqlo’s plainness and restraint appeals to consumers across the globe. These design principles also help the company negotiate the tension between the low cost of its garments and the perception of good quality.

On the shopping experience:

The retail experience seemed very Japanese: the shop was crowded, though not disorganised. The long queue to pay moved swiftly, with an efficiency not often encountered in suburban America. After I made my purchase, my credit card was handed back to me with two hands, as is customary with all interactions involving money in Japan.