Style: Uniqlo, the Gap of Japan, sees global designs in $900 million Barneys bid
The wildly popular casual apparel chain that’s often called the Gap of Japan is turning its ambitions overseas — and upmarket. Uniqlo’s parent company, Fast Retailing, has updated its $900 million proposal to buy luxury chain Barneys New York.
Back home, the down-to-earth Uniqlo brand has soared to success partly because of Japan’s decadelong economic downturn that ended in the early 1990s. By focusing on good-quality basics at ultra-low prices, Uniqlo weathered the slump while introducing Japan’s notoriously finicky shoppers to bargains.
Now, Fast Retailing wants to woo overseas converts by going head-to-head with mainstays like the Gap Inc. and Limited Brands. It’s opening Uniqlo outlets across Asia and Europe and just christened a mammoth flagship store in Manhattan’s trendy SoHo district. Japan has long been famous for its auto and electronics exports, but this is a rare case of a Japanese retailer making it big abroad.
Uniqlo’s minimalist stores brim with pared-down must-haves — such as denim pants, polo shirts, cotton socks and casual blazers — stocked in a rainbow of colors. Despite the chain’s name, a melding of “unique clothes,” its lineup is utilitarian, above all.
Then there are the prices: polo shirts for $16, four-pair sets of cotton dress socks for $8.35, jeans at $33.67, wool sweaters for $16.80. And that’s before the clearance sales.
“As a poor student, I have to say thanks,” said Satoru Takano, 20, said after window shopping at Uniqlo’s five-story outlet in Tokyo’s glitzy Ginza shopping district. “Basically all these clothes are from Uniqlo,” he said with a wave over his polo shirt and twill pants.
@ Go to www.uniqlo.com/us to view the latest fall styles.