It’s not often that a brand’s owner is one of the richest in his country but wearing his clothing would give nothing away to passerby. The big fashion-houses of the world have their names on their t-shirts, purses, sides of sweatpants, belts, you name it.
This brand, however, lives in the anonymity — in the corners of the fashion houses, until you realize it’s what keeps a wardrobe together. In fact, this brand is known to sell all kinds of clothes — chinos, jeans, t-shirts, sweaters, coats, jackets galore— in different sizes, silhouettes and neutral tones.
All basic items. All very cheap. Not like these designer brands.
Moreover, using technology and science to make clothes have a soft, air-like quality, this Japanese fashion house has coined the term “LifeWear” for their items.
According to their site, their clothes use a technology called HEATTECH, which “converts moisture into warmth, even when the temperature changes drastically.”
As for the science, Uniqlo uses a process called AIRism where this layer in clothes responds to “sticky perspiration, moisture from changes in temperature, or stiffness from layers to keep you comfortable” by “taking out the dampness, keeping your skin smooth.”
Today, Uniqlo is a global clothing company — the biggest clothing retailer in Asia— and Tadishi Yanai, the company’s CEO, has more than 2,000 stores in 15 countries.
What is the meaning of Uniqlo?
Uniqlo has a rich history, starting with the fact the company itself is a division of the Japanese retail holding company called “Fast Retailing.”
Originally, the brand was called “Unique Clothing Warehouse” but overtime, the words “unique’ and “clothing” blended together to produce its new and memorable name, Uniqlo.
How Should I Pronounce Uniqlo?
Uniqlo may look like a foreign name but its pronunciation is pretty simple:
What is so special about Uniqlo? Why is it so popular?
The air of mystery Uniqlo has makes some wonder why exactly the brand made it so big. At first glance, most items are neutral tones, closet basics and pretty nondescript in their overall look.
But not only did that appeal to the world of shoppers who wanted quick, cheap closet essentials but also it rendered the brand as an ode to minimalism and a certain style mindfulness.
In a time where “decluttering” rose due to Marie Kondo’s book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing”, Uniqlo offered a cheap gateway to clothes that represent the “less is more” ideology.
Get to know some of the wise teachings now called “KonMari” through this helpful video here:
So, in essence, the magic of Uniqlo is that it embodies society’s fascination with “the little things”— with items that spark joy and necessity rather than quantity or the ever-changing seasons of style.
“Uniqlo isn’t in the business of chasing trends,” The Atlantic aptly reports. “Its staples—versatile black pants, reliable oxfords, crisp cotton socks—are available month after month, year after year.”
And that’s what makes it special.
Are Uniqlo clothes good quality? Sustainable?
This right here is the million-dollar question, isn’t it? For such affordable, low prices does the brand actually use the aforementioned technology to deliver good quality fashion?
The Highest Fashion did a little digging and here’s what we got:
Style Democracy went under-cover shopping in the Uniqlo stores and found this to be their experience:
“In terms of quality, Uniqlo conveniently lists country of origin and all information regarding fabric content on the price tag. They’re very transparent about what you’re buying relative to price and it’s actually very fair and affordable – a cashmere sweater can range from $40 to $100 for example.”
Men’s Flair wrote a review with this little snippet as the highlight:
“The real value in the place is the selection of simple items that can complement full ensembles. My father came into the store with me on a recent trip, and was raving about the £4.99 t-shirts that are offered in such a vast array of colors – “When they’re this cheap, and that quality, you cannot go wrong.”
And that’s the key for Uniqlo. Their quality of clothes includes the natural materials of cashmere, cotton or lambswool and they aim to be sustainable by reusing polyester or washing jeans sustainably so water gets reserved.
For a mass-producing brand, Uniqlo does bring the quality with the price.
What is Uniqlo’s collaboration history?
As the common saying goes, “We become who we surround ourselves with.”
Who and what a brand works with essentially becomes a part of what the brand represents; collaborations, corporate responsibility, employee relations— all these matter for consumers as more and more, people realize their purchase history matters!
Uniqlo can be considered a streetwear brand and, as streetwear brand, they do a lot collaborations!
Let’s take a dive at some of the partnerships the brand has joined in recent years.
Christophe Lemaire X Uniqlo
Lemaire became the artistic director of Uniqlo’s research and development sectors in Paris when the brand released the collaborative collection, Uniqlo U, in 2016. Lemaire was also assigned to design clothing for the sponsored athletes like Kei Nishikori and Roger Federer. Currently, Lemaire has become a longtime partnership with the company signing him on through at least 2023.
KAWS X Uniqlo
Uniqlo may not be the most pattern-full and dynamic brand given its loyalty to basics and neutrals, but that didn’t stop them from working with KAWS, an artistic and graphic collaboration that brought some contrast and deeper-level substance to Uniqlo.
“KAWS’ pre-existing audience and the collections entry-level price point—ranging from $15-20—ensured it quickly sold out, even catching the attention of resellers hoping to flip the coveted tees,” GRAILED reported. Perhaps because all the other collections were the subdued Uniqlo trademark, KAWS’s subversive art was able to stand out all the more.
Pharrell Williams “i am OTHER” X Uniqlo
Pharrell Williams needs no introduction and his multimedia campaign, “i am OTHER” is all about combining the arenas of fashion, music and the arts as a way to shed light on the different and the beautiful.
By working with Williams, Uniqlo was able to, for the first time ever, endorse a celebrity and provide a campaign with the launch of 14 different color t-shirts and seven different baseball caps— a campaign that spoke to the importance of diversity.
Matching well with Uniqlo’s high importance of producing one kind of clothing in many different shades, Williams’ work shone through as a complimentary addition to the brand.
Check out the ad that came out of the launch here:
MoMA X Uniqlo
A stunning collaboration, Uniqlo truly solidified its appreciation for the arts by working with MoMA and honing in a look of modernism and progression. The corporate social responsibility comes into full gear here as Uniqlo became a multi-year corporate partner for MoMa and helped to fund the museum’s Free Friday Nights that are from 4-8 pm every day.
Of course, style followed as the collaboration continued to bear its fruit. Special products from Uniqlo are now available at the MoMa Design Store outposts. Uniqlo offers famous works of art for low cost and also funds the institution that carries them. As GRAILED continues to explain, “More than a PR stunt, it is a rare collaboration where it feels as if the partner actually cares. In the world of fast-fashion, that’s a rarity, and it sets Uniqlo apart.”
Overall, Uniqlo chose to make its collaborations both meaningful and strategic — each partnership brought to bear the whole reason companies should share each other’s platform: to make a difference.
Whether it was promoting the beauty of diversity, showing loyalty in keeping on staff the collaborations that defined the brand or supporting the arts, Uniqlo makes its mark with value, with significance.
Is Uniqlo better than H&M? Zara? — Uniqlo vs H&M vs Zara
Because Uniqlo is a mass retailer, it often gets grouped with H&M and here at The Highest Fashion, we find that a bit misleading.
Uniqlo is all about the basics and the neutrals, the winter wear, the socks and everything else in between. H&M, on the other hand, is all about patterns, velvet, lace — all kinds of material— and produces new collections every season.
There are no H&M classics.
“Tadashi Yanai adopted an approach from the modern auto industry,” Forbes reports. “He identified styles within product categories that wouldn’t quickly go out of fashion, differentiated those styles for Uniqlo, and then set up the supply chain that could deliver them to the consumer—vertical integration.”
This ultimately meant long product development cycles which translated to style basics that appealed to all kinds of consumers, high-end, hipster, athletic, you name it.
H&M and Zara, meanwhile, adopted more of the fast-fashion approach.
For our men out there, who don’t know the layers of fast fashion, the textbook definition for that kind of manufacturing is “approach to the design, creation, and marketing of clothing fashions that emphasizes making fashion trends quickly and cheaply available to consumers.”
Sounds innocent, but reality is that fast fashion leads to higher emissions, micro-plastics in the ocean and unethical factory worker conditions.
We talk more about fast fashion in our article on our pea coat PSA that can be found here.
“Instead of subcontracting manufacturing to Asia, Zara built more than a dozen highly automated factories in Spain where robots worked around the clock cutting and dyeing fabrics and creating unfinished ‘gray or greige goods,’” Forbes continued. “That made it possible to deliver affordable cutting-edge styles almost simultaneously with the latest high street trend collections.”
“Zara puts out 24 collections per year, while H&M offers between 12 and 16,” Business Insider attested to the fast fashion contributors, explaining that these two companies keep putting out more and more collections while “the equivalent of one garbage truck full of clothes is burned or dumped in a landfill every second.”
Because of this, Zara and H&M are able to provide more options and styles to consumers, with the first being known for more high-end looks and the latter for more every-day, fad pieces.
Why is Uniqlo so cheap? Is Uniqlo fast fashion?
While more research harbors Zara and H&M as the fast fashion contributors, if Uniqlo is such a mass retailer… aren’t they also having a hand in the world of chemicals and microplastics?
Well, let’s see!
“Japanese clothing giant Uniqlo may be under a parent company called Fast Retailing, but don’t assume that it’s a fast fashion brand,” another Forbes article begins to explain.
“Part of the frustration we have in marketing is that Mr. Yanai [Tadashi Yanai, chairman, president and CEO of Fast Retailing] wanted to say, I’m going to build a company that moves very quickly in being innovative,” John C. Jay, Fast Retailing’s president of Global Creative said in an interview with Forbes. “So, he called it Fast Retailing. But the press looks at Fast Retailing and go, Aha, so you are fast fashion. But we are not…it’s not fast fashion, because we will never make disposable clothing.”
Uniqlo is innovative with their application of AIRism and HEATTECH in their jackets and clothing, so that all are made with care, precision and durability for the goals of protection and comfortability.
The research ultimately shows that whether it be the “Silicon Valley engineers, Wall Street bankers, college students, fashionistas, and suburban soccer moms,”— all can “incorporate its pieces into their wardrobe effortlessly.”
Yanai himself has said, “We believe that individuality comes not from clothes, but the people wearing them.”
So then…why is Uniqlo so cheap?
The Independent reports, “The products are all made in the Far East, and a large proportion in China. The company doesn’t own any factories but by working closely with the same manufacturers for many years, and giving them a large volume of clothes to produce, it has built up a loyalty which ensures high quality.”
Moreover, the brand highly appeals to both genders, which means a higher influx of income due to higher audience reach.
The same article reads that men are able to adopt different colors and styles to their clothes without even noticing due to the easily available color range.
“I see men wearing lilac or pink jumpers that they wouldn’t have worn say three years ago,” a user, Robert Johnson, says.
Does Uniqlo Run Small? What is Uniqlo’s Sizing?
Articles and reviews out on the web do tend to say Uniqlo runs small. Because of the brand’s Japanese origins, the clothing reflects the short and petite figures of the Japanese.
“Our clothing is made for everyone, but we especially accommodate to smaller people,” a clothing associate for Uniqlo revealed in an article.
What is Uniqlo’s Return Policy?
In case you’re interested, we have plopped the site’s return policy right below for your convenience (no, you don’t need to thank us!)
Uniqlo accepts returns solely:
- At the store where the original purchase was made
- Upon proof of receipt
- Using original method of payment
- Items returned are in re-sellable condition
- Items returned include original packaging, tags and labels
- Items are returned within 30 days of the purchase date
- Items do not include masks, swimwear or underwear due to hygiene
Is Uniqlo a Good Brand — Should I immediately purchase something right now?
Truth be told, Uniqlo has The Highest Fashion’s stamp of approval.
It may be a mass clothing retailer, but the brand’s collaborations, interest in innovation, celebration of difference and sustainable endeavors give it the edge it deserves in the fashion market.
So, if you’re looking for some neutral styles for any season that never go out of style, this store is truly your one-stop-shop for closet essentials.
Take a look at our top four Uniqlo items for men!
Crew Neck Cashmere Sweaters Uniqlo
These sweaters feel soft even through the screen! Their look of complete relaxation, warmth and confidence make for a heady mix of refinement yet machismo. There is no denying that these sweaters not only last a lifetime due to their sustainable material but also because their energy just fits every season.
Plus, they match any set of trousers, joggers, jeans or chinos you have!
Crew Neck Long Sleeve Uniqlo
Just take a look at this neutral narcotic of a long sleeve — don’t you see yourself wearing it with literally anything you have in your wardrobe. And for only $20? It’s a steal!
This kind of long sleeve exemplifies the very idea that you don’t need to sacrifice money or comfort if you want to show good taste. The front pocket adds a feel of sophistication which blends well with the form-fitted long sleeves with light cuffs and the unique edges of the shirt.
Stud Socks Uniqlo
Remember the HEATTECH innovation we talked about earlier? Uniqlo adopts it for its winter wear and these stud socks count! A warm color that executes the very essence of the sock itself, heat is retained with the feet on any cold day given the technology that stores it there.
Moreover, these socks are retro-looking and hip — you’ll never be embarrassed when you’re asked to take your shoes off (uh, what a pet peeve for guys!)
Slim-fit Chinos Uniqlo
Every man needs a dependable pair of slim-fit chinos in his closet — so why not invest in these beauties? They are classic, timeless, yet just casual enough to add a layer of relaxed steadfastness you just don’t find in many brands.
Don’t forget to tag us on Instagram @thehighestfashioncom with any of your Uniqlo looks or ensembles!