Humility: it’s a word not often exemplified in the over-the-top world of fashion. In an industry where pride and extravagance often overpower the art that is truly on display, the state of humbleness can be devalued.
Humility is a simple quality. And it’s one that Uniqlo has in spades.
“Friends of Uniqlo, good evening! Welcome to our new Uniqlo store: the first store on the West Coast of Canada.” A roar of cheers follows at the private preview held on Oct. 5, 2017, and what feels like a rush of relief hits the room. Finally, after many requests from dedicated customers and hot on the heels of fellow Japanese brand Muji, Uniqlo has landed in British Columbia, opening up in Metropolis at Metrotown. And the clothing retailer isn’t just here to set up shop and make sure inventory is in order—it’s here to be locally relevant, to fit into the Pacific West Coast narrative, and to create a natural union with the Lower Mainland.
“We try to bring a certain level of quality to everything we do,” John C. Jay, global creative president of Uniqlo parent company Fast Retailing, explains at the Rosewood Hotel Georgia a day before the grand opening. “We’re here to absorb culture, we’re hear to learn from the individuals that make this city so great.” Jay is no stranger to the local creative community Vancouver has fostered over the years. In fact, some of his good friends, scattered in different corners of the world, developed their careers in Vancouver. He even praises Emily Carr University of Art + Design, once a “little secret sitting on the island,” for producing an abundance of creative shakers and makers.
It is not difficult for one to come to Vancouver and notice the profound active lifestyle practiced, but Uniqlo quickly recognized that the city was deeper than yoga pants and running shoes. “Vancouver is very much known for its active lifestyle, but we believe there is more here than that,” Yasuhiro Hayashi, chief operating officer of Uniqlo Canada, says as he walks through the 20,000-square-foot store. “It’s very fashionable, energetic, and vibrant. I think that’s showing respect to Vancouverites that we’re breaking down athleisure wear.”
As the traditional cracking of the sake barrel ceremony concluded on opening night, guests were immediately off to the races, adding garments of all sorts to their baskets, including Uniqlo U pieces designed by former Hermès artistic director Christophe Lemaire and items from J.W. Anderson’s capsule collection.
Images of Vancouver’s landscape can be found throughout the store—Chinatown on a rainy night, the Seawall in its brightest hour—and it all comes back to the humility that the brand exudes. What makes Uniqlo stand out is its dedication to show respect to everyone, to connect democracy and quality. It’s more than Japanese hospitality—it’s reverence through service, product, and price. As Jay says, with a smile: “We are just very simple people who just make clothes.”
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