Simple Made Better. That’s a compelling motto in this age of overload, and Uniqlo, the Japanese mega-retailer, gets it.
In fact, the motto recently changed – from Made for All to LifeWear, with the secondary line Simple Made Better the secondary tag.
The retailer, with its elevated basics – cult ultralight down, affordable cashmere, thermal wear in rainbows of colour – is touching down at the Toronto Eaton Centre Sept. 30, followed by an opening at Toronto’s posh Yorkdale mall on Oct. 20. They are the first stores to open in Canada, and I’m betting fashion anticipation is high.
After all, Christophe Lemaire, late of Hermès, is artistic director of the Uniqlo Paris R&D centre, and is designing a line called Uniqlo U, to premiere in Toronto a week before London and New York. Add collabs from the likes of Inès de la Fressange and Carine Roitfeld, and you’ve got more compulsion to shop.
I had questions for Uniqlo’s Canadian COO, Yasuhiro Hayashi.
Would you say the Uniqlo edge is simplicity in dressing?
Yasuhiro Hayashi.: The edge would be our high quality, high versatility, high function, with affordable price for everyone.
The concept itself is our edge – LifeWear. We don’t segment the consumer. We don’t have ideal customers in place, like a teenager or working executive.
We don’t approach fashion in a traditional way – dictate the look, dictate the colour.
- Are trends a part of Uniqlo’s DNA?
YH: Of course, we study the trends. Basics are updated every year for customers looking for newness. For instance, the Oxford shirt is refined, the silhouette is refined – improved to make it better every year.
Ninety-five per cent of people wear basics. To make life easier [Uniqlo makes clothes that are] wrinkle free, easy to wash, light, warm. These things are essential to real people. We’re not just serving the fashionistas.
- What have you learned about the Canadian market and are you doing anything to address any distinctions we might have?
YH: We found that in the Canadian market – at least for Toronto – everyone is so unique, so multicultural, so they are confident to showcase what they want to wear.
The 27,500-square-foot Eaton Centre store will carry several local Toronto brands, Retail Insider reports, and a large display features origami maple leaves.
The merchandise mix is very similar to London or New York, or anywhere around the world in an international city at that calibre. We found that Toronto people are very exposed to the world – therefore we didn’t want to skew or fine-tune too much because they know what is going on in New York or San Francisco or Shanghai.
- What about plans for the rest of Canada?
YH: To be frank, we want to be cautious and make it right. Even though we bring in the same merchandise as every international city, we need to fine-tune it and get brand awareness. Then, we will advance to other major cities in Canada.