Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Clothes with value that suit your values, too

Elements of Style: Uniqlo /
Making clothes that transcend all categories and social groups.

Uniqlo is the elements of style.
Uniqlo is a toolbox for living.
Uniqlo is clothes that suit your values.
Uniqlo is how the future dresses.
Uniqlo is beauty in hyperpracticality.
Uniqlo is clothing in the absolute.
Uniqlo is made for all.

Can clothing change the world? Uniqlo, the Japanese brand that has been taking San Francisco by storm, not only believes it can. It already is doing it. 

Uniqlo's brand philosophy is simple: It doesn't matter who you are or where you live. "Uniqlo makes clothes that transcend all categories and social groups," says the global clothing retailer on its website. "Our clothes are made for all, going beyond age, gender, occupation, ethnicity, and all other ways that define people. Our clothes are simple and essential yet universal, so people can freely combine them in their own unique way."

Novak Djokovic /
Serbian world-class tennis player,
who has partnered with Uniqlo.
In May, Uniqlo made a big splash in the sporting world when it signed Novak Djokovic, the top-ranked men's tennis player in the world, to a five-year apparel contract. Djokovic debuted his new Uniqlo red, white and blue kit at the French Open in Paris. On Monday, when he won the ATP World Tour championship in London, Djokovic sported a brand new black kit that made its debut during the tournament. During his post-match news conference, he wore a jazzy, red ultra-light down vest jacket.

On a recent Sunday afternoon, I experienced Uniqlo for the first time when I visited the brand's newly-opened West Coast flagship Uniqlo Store located just off Union Square in downtown San Francisco. Upon entering the 29,000 square-foot, three-story clothing emporium (located at 111 Powell Street in the former DSW store), the colorfully-lit and vibrant atmosphere made an immediate impact upon me. So did the 91 rotating mannequins showing off Uniqlo's latest apparel, such as ultra-light down jackets in a variety of colors, as well as the 77 LCD screens that lined the perimeter of the store and seven large-screen wall monitors showing off the company's marketing campaigns.

"When people first walk in, we want to shock them with the colors and the variety," Yasunobu Kyogoku, Uniqlo's chief operating officer for the United States, told the San Francisco Business Times on the eve of the San Francisco Uniqlo's October 5 grand opening.

Uniqlo's brand logo.
Uniqlo likes to think big and the company is driven by innovation. In just 10 years, half of Japan's population is relying on Uniqlo's Heattech technology to make dressing in winter "as fun and flexible as in any other season." In fact, 80 percent of the population of Japan live within 20 minutes of a Uniqlo store, the first which opened in 1984 in Hiroshima. There are 847 Uniqlo locations in Japan alone. I appreciate that Uniqlo has an eye toward social responsibility, too, by recycling millions of pieces of clothing for the needy, supporting small businesses through microcredit and working to restore Japan's Seto Inland Sea. They're a business with a soul.

Worldwide, Uniqlo has 1,132 stores in 13 markets, including: Tokyo, Bangkok, Seoul, Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Moscow, Paris, London and New York City. Here in San Francisco, Uniqlo's high-quality, affordable fashion merchandise will compete with nearby H & M and Gap for the young, hipster urbanite retail dollar in the upcoming holiday shopping season.

I had a blast visiting Uniqlo, and the store's modern and hip design, filled with bright lights, technological gadgetry and pulsating music, gave off a cool vibe that reminded me of being inside a discotheque. It definitely put me in a mood for shopping and, impulsively, I bought a stylish but affordable ($19.90), zip-up navy blue fleece jacket that was on sale and can be worn in San Francisco's moderate climate almost year-round. Added up, the phenomenon that is Uniqlo, from the colorful displays to the courteous and eager customer service to the idea of a company that wants to make our lives better through clothing, made shopping fun, again.

Indeed, clothing can change the world.

Photograph inside San Francisco Uniqlo store by Michael Dickens, copyright 2012.
Photograph of Novak Djokovic courtesy of Getty Images and ATP World Tour Facebook page.

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