Magazine article Newsweek International

They Dare Not Be Different

Magazine article Newsweek International

They Dare Not Be Different

Article excerpt

Tadashi Yanai is the founder of Uniqlo, the brand that created Japan's "cheap chic" apparel sensation. He recently met with NEWSWEEK's Kay Itoi in Tokyo to discuss American competition, Japanese conformity and his own global ambitions. Excerpts:

ITOI: People say Uniqlo is nothing but a Gap clone.

YANAI: The way we compose our products is completely different. The Gap sells the American lifestyle, while we sell individual pieces of clothing, not an entire look. We don't attempt to make people into Uniqlo models. We sell items that match products from Hermes or Gucci, or the Gap, or even Kmart and Target.

Do you buy expensive brands?

Personally, I hate suits and ties. But I dress for the job. I was in London recently to meet someone and felt I looked a little too casual, so I stopped in a Hugo Boss store and bought a jacket. In the past, people had their regular store, and went there only to buy clothing. That idea no longer exists.

Why will your first overseas store be in London?

We wanted to go to an industrialized nation. But in the United States, competition is so fierce that it would be hard to make a return fast, which we really need to do. So we decided to start in Europe. France is a little too conservative, whereas England and Japan have been close for a long time and our national psyches are similar. We'll focus on the U.K.

What makes you think shoppers in the U.K. will accept you?

If you look at people walking the streets in Tokyo and London, there isn't much difference. …

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