UNIQLO is a designer and worldwide chain of casual wear retailers consisting of more than 760 locations, and making it one of the 10 largest such chains in the world. As a household name in Japan and growing force overseas, UNIQLO also consists of brand names Cabin, OneZone, Foot Park, View Company, ASPESI, Theory, Comptoir Des Ctonniers, and Princess tam.tam in Japan, the United States, and France.
The origins of UNIQLO stretch back to March of 1949 when the Yamaguchi based Ogori Shoji was operating men’s clothing shops in Ube, Yamaguchi. In 1984, this small company stretched its influence and opened the first UNIQLO shop in Hiroshima titled “Unique Clothing Wearhouse.” The chain quickly grew in size and in 1991 the name of the parent company was changed from Ogori Shoji to Fast Retailing and by 1994, there were more than 100 retail locations throughout Japan.
In 1997, UNIQLO stopped carrying proprietary clothing and adapted the SPA (Specialty Store of Private Label Apparel) approach to make their own clothing and sell in their stores. The first urban UNIQLO store opened in 1998 in the midst of Harajuku in Tokyo and was soon present in many of Japan’s major cities with over 500 retail outlets operational by 2001 in Japan.
In 2002, the first UNIQLO Outlet was opened overseas in Shanghai, China along with four outlets in London. The initial expansion strategy was poorly implemented and sales were low in England with too much additional stock in their warehouses. A new campaing was started in 2004 to remedy ailing stocks and celebrities such as Norika Fujiwara were hired to appear in their commercials. Fashion magazine appearances and new designers quickly led to a repair of their business model and further expansion into the United States, Hong Kong, and South Korea. To date, there are more than 700 Japan based UNIQLO stores and a fast growing collection of overseas offerings.
In 2006, UNIQLO opened its largest shop yet in the SoHo district of Manhattan, with multiple new designers attached to help boost the product’s appeal. The following year, the only other three American stores were closed, leaving only the Manhattan UNIQLO in the United States. In addition to the New York flagship store, a Paris Flagship store is set to open in 2009 in Paris.
In April of 2007, UNIQLO launched UT Project in Harajuku with a new concept for T-shirt sales. Creative Director, Kashiwa Sato’s concept has T-shirts being sold in their own stainless steel display cases and tenis ball style cans. The store’s goal is to appear and be as futuristic and self-service as possible. The UT Project is an advertising campaign to promote its UT store, producing limited edition T-Shirts with celebrites in art, design, photography, and music designing specialty shirts. Each month, the company seeks to produce and deliver 100 new designs.
Japanese celebrities who have appeared in UNIQLO commercials and advertising campaigns include:
Kōji Iwasawa, Garage Sale, Katsuya Kobayashi, Anna Tsuchiya, Eriko Sato, Ren Ōsugi, Kazushi Sakuraba, CHEMISTRY, Yayumi Matsutō, Eiko Koike, Miki Imai, Crystal Kay, Eikichi Yazawa, Shinnosuke Ikehata, Aso Kumiko, Jinko, Teri Itō, Shigeru Mizuki, Yasuko Matsuyuki, Norika Fujiwara, Gorie (Toshiyuki Teruya), Tortoise Matsumoto