by Maggie F. Francisco
Last October 5, Japanese casualwear brand Uniqlo opened Uniqlo Manila, the first global flagship store in the Philippines (15th in the world) and the biggest in Southeast Asia.
Since it was founded in 1949, Uniqlo has become a fixture of minimalist, utility-conscious everyday wear. Now, with the opening of the Japanese fast-fashionretailer’s flagship in the Philippines, Uniqlo wants to be better engaged with its customers’ lifestyles.
“The global flagship store is the fullest expression of our brand. It’s where all the best products are shown,” says John C. Jay, president of global creative at Fast Retailing, Uniqlo’s parent company, in an interview with Manila Bulletin. “This space is also meant to be a reflection of the country—to embrace the local neighborhood. It’s more than just selling stuff, it’s giving it meaning and context.”
In case you didn’t know, John C. Jay is considered to be a living legend. Before working at Uniqlo, he made a name for himself both in retail and in advertising. After graduating with a degree in Visual Communications at The Ohio State University, Jay became a regular contributor to international publications, covering culture, art, music, fashion, and design. He then worked at Bloomingdale’s as creative director and marketing director (the store’s “no logo shopping bag” with different artworks was his idea!).
Jay went into advertising when he joined Wieden+Kennedy (W+K), serving as the agency’s global executive creative director and eventually a partner. During his stint at W+K, Uniqlo was one of his first clients, to which he created the campaign for Uniqlo Fleece products back in 1999. This was when he was introduced to founder and president Tadashi Yanai. Joining Fast Retailing in 2014, Jay oversees all the creative aspects in the company, including product design and branding strategies.
Entering the Uniqlo flagship in Glorietta 5, one can immediately see a sense of space and order. The store provides the most extensive range of the latest lines for women, men, kids, and babies, in a sales area of 4,100 square meters across two levels. Modeled after other Uniqlo global flagship stores around the world, customers get to enjoy the best the brand has to offer in a truly unique shopping setting.
With this new flagship, Jay wanted to do more than just work Philippines’ creative community; he wanted to put the LifeWear concept front and center. “Uniqlo has always been about making LifeWear. We design simple, beautiful, high-quality everyday clothes that are universal in appeal and which help to make the everyday lives of our customers better,” explains Jay.
Even though a global brand, it was important for Jay that Uniqlo Manila showcased local culture inside the store. “The whole idea is to have a space that highlights culture that’s unique and relevant. To be a good citizen, to be a good neighbor in the neighborhood,” he shares. “The flagship store expresses global ideas in a more local way.”
Capturing the cultural zeitgeist of the country, Jay worked with homegrown creative agency Plus63 Design to produce a series of murals depicting the vibrancy and diversity of each Filipino’s journey. A soundtrack—co-created by local music acts, led by Erwin Romulo and Malek Lopez—was also designed and created to make the shopper’s experience even more unique. A special mannequin display also showcases a collaborative project between Japanese stylist Shun Watanabe and Filipino visual artist and Uniqlo Manila Future Hero, Leeroy New.
Through the years, Uniqlo has successfully demonstrated how to communicate its brand identity, which has its own global status, across multiple markets. “All of the places that we work in have some added value for us in terms of products, of new categories,” Jay reveals. But overall, Uniqlo stays true to its philosophy of Simple Made Better. “There are many Japanese brands that are simple, but they don’t evolve. There’s a legacy and history to those and they’re classic. Me, I’m not interested in the classics. I’m more interested in knowing the classic and making it better.”
Uniqlo Manila, Glorietta 5, open daily 10am-10pm. For more info, go to uniqlo.com/ph/manila, like uniqlo.ph on Facebook, follow @uniqloph on Twitter and @uniqlophofficial on Instagram