If you did click the link: I will tell you the first time I walked by the brightly lit UNIQLO in Shibuya, Japan, my first thought was that it “looked like the Japanese Gap,” so I kept walking (quality or not, I initially did not care).
Several years back, my girlfriend had told me how popular UNIQLO was in Japan amongst Chinese tourists, and I did not get why that was. Well, that was till I purchased a couple of items from the San Francisco store. That purchase is where I realized UNIQLO may be basic AF (well, so am I), but they are big on quality (fit, materials and durability). That right there is what I value and why I bet others will seek out UNIQLO. It may also explain why UNIQLO had to build a UNIQLO within a UNIQLO while being located next door to a UNIQLO in Japan for Chinese tourists (that is some Inception level retailing).
First a Bit of the Basics of UNIQLO
“UNIQLO” was a contraction mistake when the “c” was misread as a “q” in “unique clothing.”
- Is UNIQLO a Japanese company? Yes, it is.
- Is UNIQLO a fast-fashion company? Yup, that too.
- How do you pronounce UNIQLO (the Japanese pronunciation)? Yu-ni-ku-ro (only this YouTube video gets it right).
- UNIQLO annual sales? $19.06 billion which makes them the 3rd ranking fast-fashion brand as of August 2020. Number one and two are INDITEX (ZARA) and Hennes & Mauritz (H&M).
- Is UNIQLO good quality? read on.
Fast Retailing is Fast-Fashion
“Fast fashion is a term used to describe a highly profitable business model based on replicating catwalk trends and high-fashion designs, and mass-producing them at low cost. The term ‘fast fashion’ is also used to generically describe the products of the fast fashion business model.”– Wikipedia.org
Uniqlo is a wholly owned subsidiary of Fast Retailing Co., Ltd which is a Japanese company, and they are what people in the “biz” call a fast-fashion company (their goal is a design-to-delivery cycle down to just 13 days).
I Wear Clothes Till the Buttons Fall off, So I Know a Thing or Two About Quality, Especially Durability
“Quality comes first, then price”– Tadashi Yanai, founder and president of Fast Retailing Co., Ltd
I got introduced to the UNIQLO brand because I needed the basics (essentials), and you can not get any more basic than UNIQLO. Although, the pieces that I did purchase, I did not realize months to years later how durable the products are.
Yea, I have holes in both my elbows of my wool sweaters from my gangsta lean while driving, but the rest of it looked great. I just can not say the same thing about my H&M and EXPRESS shirts that I wore less than a handful of times because they look like a drunken friend after a night of drinking.
Internationally Loved for a Reason, Especially in China
The massive popularity and growth in China is what motivated my interest in the Uniqlo brand. Not to mention, there are now more UNIQLO stores in China (767), than in Japan (764).
“I like Uniqlo because it’s very easy to match and the quality is not bad,” he said, waiting in line to try on pants at a Uniqlo store in Wangfujing, Beijing’s prime shopping district. It satisfies all my needs, so I don’t need to spend time elsewhere.” – 25-year-old IT worker Niu Ran, in China.– ET (Economic Times) Retail.com – “Big in China and tiny in the U.S., Fast Retailing seen weathering pandemic.”
I Think I Fit the Demographic of the Buyer Mentioned on Quora by Misha Burton
Misha Burton has the best response I have seen when scouring the internet to find out what the UNIQLO brand is all about, but the specific question she was responding to was: “how does UNIQLO sell clothes so cheap?” Via Quora, and you will have to click the link to read her response (I’d also upvote it while you are at it), but I will use a snippet of what I resonate with her on the UNIQLO brand to be:
“However, UNIQLO does not follow the trend. More pursuit is practicality. Its staples—versatile black pants, reliable oxfords, crisp cotton socks—are available month after month, year after year. For this, it must convince shoppers across the country of a proposition that is vital to the industry: fashion can be affordable, Instead of one-time use.“– Misha Burton, Fashion apparel wholesale retailer (2016-present)
Aside From Industry People Chiming in on UNIQLO’s Quality, It Is Worth Reading Kristin Au’s Response Too
I have only used Quora on and off, but ever so often, or depending on the topic, they do have some amazing responses/contributors. One such consumer response is by Kristen Au who cites the UNIQLO experience as being “low stress, efficient, and utilitarian.” (I am in total agreement with her).
“Owning stuff gives me anxiety because it takes time (to buy) and energy (to maintain). With Uniqlo, I can own more with the responsibility of less. For example, I own their casual wear button down shirt and drape collection tank top each in three colors.”– Kristen Au, product designer, language enthusiast.
I’m not a big shopper, so having durable, well made basic clothing meets my primary needs. If anything, I do and would spend money on shoes and G-SHOCKS tho.
Get the Basics and Start With These UNIQLO Essentials
- The New York times just busted their full load when they listed 42 items (glad they narrowed it down for you).
- Japan Wireless (JW) does a better job at narrowing things down with their 5 best. Even though this is a Japanese media outlet, the essentials seem to be very universal.
- This one is of a dude, Tim Dessaint, a YouTuber in the UK, and he did a video on Menswear Essentials, Top 10 Basics. After watching this video of Tim with his oversized looking clothes with high waters (like Pee Wee Herman), I have to remind you that I do know anything about fashion. So my comment does not matter when your video has over a million views. Except, regardless of his fashion sense, as a YouTube creator, I do like his transition effects that he has in his videos to Instagram content.
If You are Still Wondering if UNIQLO is Good Quality
I would say “yes, they are,” and it is integral to their market strategy, along with what I see as a key aspect of Japanese culture which is “quality at an affordable price” (attainable by your everyday salary man).
So I updated this article to include YouTubers because there are so many good creators who put in the time to put out decently researched content, such as Brand Origin and their “The Humble Beginnings of Uniqlo and How It Became an $8 Billion-Dollar Brand” video.
In the US, UNIQLO has locations in:
CA, CO, DC, FL, HI, IL, MA, MD, NJ, NY, PA, VA, WA.