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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Uniqlo, and the Japanese Rock Star Look (Revisited)

I have a colleague, a cheerfully gay American, who claims that Uniqlo is the only brand he wears. Like most gay men he is a fastidious dresser, and likes the fact you can throw together a readymade wardrobe at Uniqlo for just a few thousand Yen (this being Japan where we both reside). I don't have the kind of money he has, but my own wardrobe is about 35 per cent to 45 per cent Uniqlo derived these days, and has been ever since I discovered two たんぽぽ (Dandelion) recycled thrift stores across the river in Chiba. Most of the clothes they sell at たんぽぽ are, in fact, slightly compromised Uniqlo garments (Japanese, being Japanese, will throw out clothes if they get a coffee stain.) My wardrobe is now basically second derivative Uniqlo, with faint coffee stains or barely noticeable flaws. The only problem is, many of these items are kind of small and don't fit (me being a Caucasian and all.) Perhaps if I got my social media game happening, I might be able to buy the real thing, with the proper range of sizes to try on.

As part of their Lucky Counter campaign in the United Kingdom, shoppers can score a discount every time they mention a particular Uniqlo product on Twitter. The more you tweet about the item, the lower the price drops (down to a threshold of about 60 per cent off, according to one report I read.) Dang, if I lived in London I'd be taking advantage of that deal! The less I have to do with real cash, and the more I can make use of its derivatives, the happier I will be! Social media influence is the ultimate currency, and one day I hope to be trading in it, investing in it, paying it forward! Why don't they have these kind of campaigns in Japan? Until they arrive, I will have to keep going to たんぽぽ, or buy knock-off shit in Vietnam. They don't have Uniqlo down there yet, but it is probably just a matter of time. As The Sun Daily recently recorded: "Uniqlo, Japan’s number one fashion brand and world leader in casual wear, will open its first store in Malaysia in November in Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur." 

These clothes are not quite Uniqlo, but offer a glimpse of how the Uniqlo look could be!
The next time I go to Iceland, I might wear this ensemble, which is about 35 per cent Uniqlo-derived (Japan, 2010)
Not content with being a household name in Japan, Uniqlo is on its way to conquer the world. Like Mugi, like Best Denki Uniqlo champions and epitomizes a "Japanese approach" to retail. Mass produced, but paradoxically unique... that is the Japanese approach! High quality, but (relatively) cheap, with a strong customer service ethos. That's Japanese retail in a nutshell, and it might well prove to be a major export success story for the nation. Uniqlo Singapore is the brand's fourth store in Asia, following the brand's success in China, Hong Kong and South Korea. They opened a store in Taiwan this month, and are big in the United States. One day Uniqlo might even reach the sloppily dressed shores of Australia, my native land, where a pair of jeans might cost you a few hundred dollars, if the shop assistant feels interested in serving you. I am sure it is going to cause havoc when it arrives down there. They sure need some shaking up! 
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