When it comes to Japanese fashion and lifestyle labels, names like Commes des Garcon, Bape, and Yohji Yamamoto fall off our lips easily. What’s not been easy is the access to these brands. However, we in India are now one step closer to enjoying Japanese fashion as Uniqlo, the hugely popular ready-to-wear label gets set to launch in the country with its first store in New Delhi.
If you are not familiar with the brand, Uniqlo is a label built on high quality everyday staples, something the brand calls Lifewear. Think comfy T-shirt, crisp button-downs, perfect trousers, bombers, and the best fitting denims. The merchandise is massive, and seeks to cater to everyone. Ultra-stretch jeans is another one of their well-known products, and your winter wardrobe will no longer be complete without their heat-tech puffer coats, cashmere sweaters, and parkas in a striking hues. One of the largest retailers in Asia, the brand has 2,185 stores in 22 markets.
Established in 1984 as Unique Clothing Warehouse, the name Uniqlo took form when the staff in charge of registering the name misread the ‘C’ to be ‘Q’ in the abbreviated ‘Uni-Clo’. The brand found success right from start given its high quality pieces, and when Japan was hit by recession in the 90s, Uniqlo used the ‘specialty-store of private label apparel’ strategy (SPA), which allowed them to manage their products, design, and distribute them exclusively.
It was in 1998 that the brand started expanding – their first stop was Tokyo’s Harajuku district, and a wave of outlets across Japan followed. The next couple years saw a worldwide expansion with stores in New York, London, Shanghai, and South Korea. Today, the brand is owned by Fast Retailing Co. Ltd, and in 2017 veteran designer Rebekka Bay, who has honed her skills at labels such as Cos, Gap, and Everlane, was appointed its creative director. Its brand ambassadors include Roger Federer.
Apart from its staples, what makes Uniqlo stand out in a sea of mass fashion retail is its illustrious list of collaborators. In 2007, the label looped in pop artist Keith Haring to create a range of colourful T-shirts, and one of the most successful collaborations till date has been with Jill Sander in 2009 – it lasted five seasons and comprised a line duffle coats, slim-fitting shirts, gilets, merino wool turtleneck sweaters and more. British designer JW Anderson was roped in 2017 to create a collection of colourful cable knits and puffer jackets. Karakami Karocho, Tomas Maier (former artistic director of Bottega), and Christophe Lemaire (of Hermès) have also been part of Uniqlo’s repertoire.
Uniqlo’s Delhi store is set to open in Fall 2019. Watch this space for more.