Often referred to as the fast fashion brand like Zara and H&M, Japanese clothing brand Uniqlo opens first store today in India in New Delhi’s Ambience Mall followed by two more in different cities. It has already collaborated with Delhi-based designer Rina Singh to launch the ‘Kurta Collection’, as part of the 2019 Fall/Winter offering
The brand believes this is the right time to enter the Indian market in terms of the current market scenario and its own growth strategy. It offers timeless styles, irrespective of runway trends. Their price points are also similar to those of other brands. For instance, Uniqlo T-shirts are priced between Rs 990-Rs1,990 while those by HeatTech and AIRism range from Rs 990 and knitwear from Rs 2,990.
Pioneering sustainable textiles
An ardent environmentalist, Uniqlo realised its environmental and capitalist capacities long before sustainability started driving the retail industry. Its 19-year partnership with Toray Industries, a textile conglomerate, resulted in the successful creation of HeatTech –an innerwear fabric that has sold more than a billion products all over the world. The fabric — which is now also used in jeans, socks, shorts and camisoles — delivers warmth in a single layer, preventing bulk, and converting moisture into heat.
The two companies’ long-standing collaboration also led to several other innovations including the AIRism (breathable textile) and Blocktech (that blocks UV radiation). Their latest commitment to circular fashion includes clothing made from recycled down.
Stores across the world collect used down items from customers, and a Toray-developed system extracts materials to be cleansed and used in new products. These companies are also developing clothes made with DRY-EX, a material that incorporates polyester fibres derived from reclaimed PET bottles.
Dealing with labor issues
In 2015, Uniqlo had to face many challenges on its labor front. The company registered labor rights violations at its factory in China. In June, its factory workers went on strike.
A year later, a report titled ‘This Way to Dystopia: Exposing Uniqlo’s Abuse of Chinese Garment Workers’ by SACOM and War on Want highlighted problems such as “low pay, dangerous working conditions and oppressive management in the company’s factories.
In response, the company collaborated the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the UN’s specialised agency for promoting decent work for all. According to this partnership, Uniqlo’s parent company Fast Retailing will provide US$1.8 million in funding over a two-year period (2019-2021), to be invested in ILO research on labor markets and social security systems in Asian countries.
Committed to improve not just the environment but also people’s lives in future Uniqlo plans to launch four new collections that include:
New Form Follows Functions: Inspired by 20th-century modernism, this collection showcases how the future might dress, with workwear that transforms from day to night.
Uniqlo U: This collection includes essentials like chequered coats made of Blocktech and reversible boa fleece jackets from Christophe Lemaire
Ines De La Fressange: This offers an ode to Parisian chic with relaxing fits a la 1970s sportswear
JW Anderson: Drawing inspiration from the Great British Outdoors, this collection uses tartan fabrics