How Uniqlo Conquered Millennial Fashion
Uniqlo is a favorite among some of the team here at Campos. In the US, they arrived right at a time when other retailers in similar categories began to be perceived as “dad brands.” Their clothes offer a great fit at a fantastic price, and their quality is way above average.
Ben Rascoe, a strategist in our Chicago office and our in-house fashion expert, runs a mens fashion blog and popular instagram account with over 107,000 followers under the moniker Dapper Professional. “For me personally, Uniqlo has been one of the only major stores that I have consistently shopped at in recent years,” he said. “A few of my friends and family members have become brand loyalists as well!”
The Atlantic’s April issue has a piece about Uniqlo, calling it Gap for millennials.
For a certain segment of American shoppers—young, urban, professional, practical—Uniqlo basics have become a cornerstone of the contemporary wardrobe. In America’s coastal cities, Uniqlo’s stores—on Newbury Street in Boston, in SoHo in New York, in San Francisco’s Union Square—are forever clotted with customers.
It’s a good look at the brand, how it was built into a fashion retail powerhouse, and what pitfalls may lie ahead. But we don’t think it shows the full picture as to what has made Uniqlo such a success.
Sure, price is a big factor, and the Atlantic piece rightly points out that millennials started their adult lives in a terrible economy with high student debt, making expensive clothes a luxury many could not afford. However, while the prices are low, the clothes are not cheap. Uniqlo products will last and they often include high-end fabrics in their products, such as cashmere.
This sets them apart from the more fashionable, edgy, and disposable products at H&M and Zara. For a millennial and younger target, who are becoming more and more concerned about climate change and environmentalism, there is an undeniable tension between truly fast fashion and being green.
The United Nations Environment Programme addressed the problem in an article entitled “Why Fast Fashion Needs To Slow Down”:
Fashion is responsible for 92 million tons of solid waste dumped in landfills each year
The fashion industry is also the second-biggest consumer of water, producing 20% of wastewater
The industry generates more greenhouse gas emissions than all international flights and maritime shipping combined
Uniqlo’s simple, timeless, and relatively high quality products elevate them as a more green option, but they also fits in with a trend we’ve called “The Allure of Less.”
Especially among millennials, we have seen a tendency to pull away from the consumerism of the past to aim at a life with less. In the fashion world, rather than endlessly chasing after the latest in fashion, many young people are opting for timeless, high quality staples that work season after season, streamlining their clothing into a “capsule wardrobe.” Uniqlo’s products fit perfectly into this trend, and we think it’s a major reason why they have seen such success.
And we’d be remiss to not point out, in an article so heavily focused on millennials, how Uniqlo has leveraged partnerships with sometimes unexpected groups, like the Museum of Modern Art and Sesame Street, to help push the fashionability of their staples.
For Uniqlo, the collaborations provide a frisson of high fashion, a suggestion that the leading lights of couture appreciate its cheap socks and T-shirts too.
But Uniqlo goes beyond the normal collaborations, really pushing their content on social media and working with groups of influencers across the country.
Bottom line? The next time you see a young person in basic navy pants, a crisp white button down, and a gray sweater, don’t think they’re boring. They’re a non-trend chaser—which is today’s trendsetter.