Uniqlo is owned by Tadashi Yanai, a septuagenarian Japanese billion. Mr Yanai is the owner and founder of Fast Retailing, parent company to Uniqlo. A private label, Fast Retailing is one of the five largest retail manufacturers in the world and Uniqlo is its star performer amongst a slew of high performing subsidiaries. In 2019 the company ranked #84 on the Forbes List of the World’s Most Valuable Brands and boasts more than 2.2 million followers on Instagram comprising mostly millennials.
According to a recent report in The Atlantic, Uniqlo is the “GAP for millennials.” Indeed, for many young urban professionals around the world, this Japanese brand is the quintessence of cool. While it continues to expand its reach and influence, the brand is currently very popular among working twenty-somethings in Asia, Europe and America. This is likely due to its style aesthetic, and no doubt its affordable prices. In America, its impact is probably a bit more muted than in Europe and certainly Asia. It is said that the American consumers are still getting warmed up to the brand, after the brand was forced to shutter stores in New Jersey malls due to operational losses. But according to reports, in places like San Francisco, Soho and Boston Massachusetts, the Uniqlo brand is greatly appreciated as stores in these venues tend to be bursting with buyers.
Uniqlo went unisex in 1984 after its debut as a men’s clothing store in 1949 (under a different name). From the debut of its unisex model, they adopted a GAP-esque style of operation, using similar visual merchandising, store design and display strategies. Of course, being that the GAP has lost some of its luster over the years (due to rapid expansion according to some) Uniqlo is trying to avoid making the same mistakes while taking the best ideas from the formerly top revenue producing brand.
Uniqlo strives to be a company on the cutting edge of sustainability, quality and durability in its production practices, according to Yanai. The company is based in Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan and it is from its headquarters that Tadashi Yanai toils to realize his ambition of being the top of the world as a casual wear designer, manufacturer and retailer who produces, affordable and desirable fast fashions suitable for the young and cool.
Uniqlo is often compared to other fast fashion brands such as Zara and H&M. However, Mr Yanai stresses the interest in art and design and patterns and rhythm in creating his company’s designs. This is readily apparent in many of its merchandise.
What is really cool about Tadashi (and by extension Uniqlo) is the CEO’s seeming interest in equalizing the genders in Japan, a country which apparently does not score very well as far as gender equality (especially in pay rates) is concerned. He is of course the richest man in Japan and one of the richest in all of Asia but he recognizes that maybe the playing field is not so even for the genders and he wants to see that change, he says. According to a recent Forbes article about the Japanese CEO, he has said that the CEO job is job is more suitable for a woman,” adding that women “are persevering, detail-oriented and have an aesthetic sense.” And it appears that he would like the next CEO of Uniqlo to be female.
That is kind of cool.