Founded: Ube, Yamaguchi Prefecture, 1949
Founder: Tadashi Yanai
Location: Tokyo, Japan
Originally founded as a local retailer named “Men’s Shop OS” in 1949, it was not until 1984 that ‘Uniqlo’ came into inception. ‘Unique Clothing Warehouse’ was opened in Hiroshima spawning a market which meant that by 1994 there were 100 Uniqlo stores across Japan under the holding company title of Fast Retailing. In 1997 the company took on the ‘SPA’ principle from the similar American based retailer GAP. This meant that Uniqlo would sell its own in-house label for the first time, focussing on quality at low prices – with high turnover – at a time when Japan was in recession. This meant that Uniqlo was able to offer its now infamous cashmere sweatshirts at affordable prices, a move which gave standing to the brand as something more than a high street store. Furthermore, the rise of the Japanese streetwear brands at the same time such as A Bathing Ape meant Uniqlo was able to offer ‘staple’ products at a lower price point meaning they attracted a generation of otherwise expensive streetwear followers. Furthermore, highly publicized advertisement campaigns in Japan associated the brand with celebrities, a move which GAP has continued to replicate. This was partly the reason however why four stores in London; the first outside of Japan, failed to make profit for their first six years after opening. As the European customer failed to connect with the brand, others such as GAP and H&M were able to increase their market share. After more high profile associations, such as designing the Japanese Olympic wear in 2004, the brands largest European exposure came in 2009. It was announced German designer Jill Sander would be designing a collection for Uniqlo, taking inspiration from collaborations such as Comme des Garcons and Vera Wang for H&M. This move has been hugely effective for Uniqlo, taking a designer who has been without a company since 2002, and giving her a creative outlet to design minimal aesthetic clothes for a brand which operates on the same principle. Therefore, this has attracted not only Jill Sander fans but ultimately high end fashion followers to Uniqlo with the emotions in the collection such as her famous tailored raincoats. As stores such as H&M bring more collaborative partners to allow people to access high fashion at low price points, so must Uniqlo do the same as with Jill Sander. The identification with the stores in Europe and the German Designer was essential – an element which they must once again recreate to expand throughout Europe and beyond.
Uniqlo is Japanese casual apparel designer, manufacturer, and retailer. Uniqlo opened its first retail store in 1984 using the name “Unique Clothing Warehouse. Later, the company’s name was changed to Fast Retailing, recognizing as one of the most profitabl and fast-growing clothing firm in Japan. In 1997, Uniqlo adopted SPA (Specialty-store and retailer of Private label Apparel) from the American retailing giant GAP. SPA strategy allows them to design, manufacture, and sell the products exclusively through the entire production process in order to provide high quality goods at a low price.
In November 1998, Uniqlo opened its first urban store in Harajuku, Tokyo. It has proven its business success by spreading out its retail stores across the country as well as international expansion. Now, Uniqlo has 760 retail stores in Japan and opened its flagship store in New York City, London, Paris, South Korea, China, Hong Kong, and Singapore. With its remarkable achievements, Uniqlo also was invited to produce uniforms for Japanese Olympic Teams in 1998, 2004, and 2008.