Basic models + technology + new trends, how did you make Uniqlo so popular? |Interview with Uniqlo Greater China CMO

The suit jacket I wear is high elastic, 330g, and it can be rolled up and thrown into the washing machine for washing without worrying about wrinkles;

Clothes made of AIRism fabrics are necessary for my business trips. I wash them by hand before going to bed and hang them on a hanger, and they dry in the morning;

There is also a coat in my small bag, which can be taken out and put on when it is cold. There are also hats and scarves inside… I can go directly to the plane with this bag.

Wu Pinhui's bag is like Doraemon's pocket, where it seems that a "high-tech clothing" can be pulled out at any time-she is the global executive director of Fast Retailing Group and the chief marketing officer of Uniqlo Greater China.

The amazing thing is that when we listen to her talking about such grand topics as the Chinese market and future development, we are easily planted by a new shirt that she enthusiastically recommends.

Reminiscent of Uniqlo's brand concept "LifeWear MADE FOR ALL", it looks endless, and it can reach everyone when it lands.

The first Uniqlo store opened in 1984, and now there are more than 920 stores across the country. It carries the memories of many people from childhood to adulthood. A once-distant symbol of the city is now part of a household name.

▲Note: Uniqlo Beijing Sanlitun Global Flagship Store

The "fast fashion" brands that grew up in the same batch as Uniqlo began to decline last year. From being popular to leaving the scene, it took only a dozen years for a storm. The new love of middle-class consumption is even more aggressive, quickly becoming popular in various branches, and occupying the prime location of the shopping mall in a blink of an eye.

Relying on the three advantages of " practical basic models, high-tech fabric technology, and joint cross-border trend culture ", Uniqlo has remained evergreen and is beginning to change rapidly.

When the new products are launched in spring and summer of 2023, we hereby interview Wu Pinhui. Take a look at how Uniqlo has innovated Uniqlo under this year's turbulent competition of new consumption, new technologies and new trends.

20 years ago, overseas fast fashion brands became popular in China, and the basic models contributed a lot.

Accompanied by the admiration of overseas brands at that time, it made up for the lack of quality and style in the new middle-class market. Coupled with the characteristics of versatility and cost-effectiveness, it swept the lives of the public with a "just-needed" attitude.

Unlike other fast fashion brands, Uniqlo does not sell "popular", but makes the basic models "popular" .

▲ Note: From UNIQLO 2023 Spring/Summer "LifeWear Clothing Life" brand booklet. Uniqlo Yanai Masa once wrote that "advertising leaflets are love letters to customers", and he wants consumers to have the idea of ​​"because it is a Uniqlo product, so I want to buy it".

In recent years, more brands with basic features are emerging. From aesthetic silhouettes, artistic inspiration, environmentally friendly materials, and different seasons and scene classifications, there are endless new brands emerging, and different basic models are designed for subdivided groups.

In the past 20 years, the clothing industry in China and even the world has been developing rapidly. The fabrics have become more abundant, the colors and styles have become more diverse, and scientific technology has greatly improved the comfort and performance of clothing.

Wu Pinhui said, "Uniqlo's basic models are also constantly being upgraded. From the improvement of design, the addition of new materials and functions, to the application of popular colors , there has been a qualitative leap compared to 20 years ago."

Take a specific product as an example: In terms of design, the upgrade of the basic model is obvious.

This year, Christophe Lemaire, Art Director of Hermès, participated in the design of the Uniqlo U 2023 spring and summer series. The U series has become a long-lasting popular line of Uniqlo. Various designers have applied their high-end design details, fabrics, and styles to the basic models. ——The addition of light luxury and high-end elements makes the basic model synonymous with "advanced" .

In the past, everyone thought that the designer series of Uniqlo had very trendy designs. In the past two or three years, we have integrated the master designs into the basic models, so that the designer models can also be very close to the people.

In her view, the continuous use of such international high-end fashion design details in the entire product line is also a kind of popularization of design and fashion.

While other brands are emphasizing differentiation, Uniqlo's "MADE FOR ALL" stands out instead.

As for the improvement of fabrics-remember Uniqlo's light down that was listed on Fortune's "100 Great Modern Designs" list?

This is a typical example. It became the only clothing brand on the list at that time because of its combination of lightness, warmth, affordability, and small footprint. It opened a road of combining technological innovation and life aesthetics.

You may not have noticed that since it was released in 2009, this light down has been upgraded every year, and last year it became an easy-to-stain fabric-it looks like a basic model, but the inside is no longer basic.

Wu Pinhui mentioned that after the epidemic, everyone is pursuing general health, that is, the small things of basic necessities of life have begun to pursue a more active lifestyle, hoping to be relaxed and happy, more pragmatic in terms of clothing, and at the same time pursuing beauty.

So we can see that this year's Uniqlo spring and summer clothing has become more vibrant and colorful, with many bright colors, and the new beauty sun protection clothing has 10 colors, which are arranged together like a rainbow.

Wu Pinhui bought a whole set of purple sportswear and sun protection clothing this year, "This color was impossible in Uniqlo before, because the Japanese are more pursuing the ultimate and simple, but we have observed that young people in Europe and the United States are after the epidemic. The color matching and figure show combine the latest popular elements with our basic models.”

Uniqlo's newly launched "high-waist short" hot girl T and "loose silhouette" youthful T, both in terms of shape design and color matching, are more youthful and energetic, and the mature basic models in the past are getting younger and younger change.

Regularly updating these new elements will allow you to unconsciously see a point when you pass Uniqlo, and you may find that it is what you want in your heart. Wu Pinhui said:

The logic of product upgrading is actually very simple, which is the real demand of consumers for clothing. What we always insist on is: talent is the protagonist, and clothing can only be a supporting role.

The old and new brands of basic models that are popular today have brought new choices to basic models, but it is undeniable that from all aspects, the public will still prefer the option with the strongest comprehensive score.

It can be said that Uniqlo is meeting the public's expectations for upgrading basic models in a balanced and popular way.

Everyone has basic models in their lives, and people of every age also have their basic models. Basic models need to evolve continuously according to the times, technology and lifestyle.

Although the basic models allow more people to enter Uniqlo, it is actually innovative technology that makes Uniqlo truly differentiated.

It is not uncommon to see "technological power" as a selling point in the newly popular brand library.

Brands such as Lululemon, allbirds, and Angpao, which are sought after by the new generation, also integrate "technology" into their products. They can mention technological concepts and are good at telling technological stories.

Wu Pinhui believes that the difference between Uniqlo and them is that the audience is different. They have their own focus on sports and fitness, but Uniqlo pursues health and comfort, faces all consumers, and responds to various scenarios in daily life. They hope to change through technology. people's way of life and environment.

▲ From UNIQLO 2023 Spring/Summer "LifeWear Clothing Life" brand booklet

In order to truly achieve this, the greatest advantage of Uniqlo's technological strength lies in its "comprehensive functionality" .

Uniqlo's sun protection clothing can be said to be the "originator of cool sun protection clothing". This year's new model takes into account the six functions of "sun protection, portability, breathability, coolness, waterproof, and quick-drying". Its AIRism technology fabric also uses camisole, Sun protection clothing, legged pants, dresses and other categories.

For these six functions, Uniqlo now has three or four functions for almost every product. In other brands, it is indeed difficult to see such a "technology model" that combines multiple functions.

The integration of various functions is the uniqueness of Uniqlo, and it is also the place where our technological strength will be the most different from other brands in the future.

The secret behind the technological power comes from the cooperation between Uniqlo and the world's leading fabric technology companies , including the Japanese textile giant Toray Group.

Before 1998, polar fleece was still a rare thing. Because of the high cost, people only saw it in high-end brands, but it was an excellent option to keep clothes warm, so it greatly attracted Uniqlo.

Immediately, Uniqlo and Toray Group acted together to introduce the production process of polar fleece and improve the technology, creating the first generation of popular models in the history of Uniqlo, which also triggered a cultural trend of polar fleece.

Since then, Uniqlo has realized the importance of technology, and technology has also become a trump card of Uniqlo, with more and more "star products".

▲ Japan itself pays great attention to the spirit of craftsmen and extreme skills, and Uniqlo can be said to have won the true inheritance of intensive cultivation.

Now you can buy technical fabric clothing at Uniqlo all year round-the AIRism fabric mentioned earlier, that is, Uniqlo and Toray have developed the cutting-edge technology originally used in the aerospace field, and then used it to create innovative fibers and materials for clothing. , spring and summer sports can be essential; Uniqlo pioneered the linerless light down, which has changed the traditional point of bloated and heavy down in autumn and winter, HEATTECH thermal underwear is the pioneer of self-heating underwear in the world.

An accepted saying is that young people may resist wearing long johns, but they will not reject Uniqlo's HEATTECH.

So far, these "technology models" are not outdated, and even the technology is still cutting-edge.

No matter which technology company you are in, the advantage of technology is "hard power" and it is difficult to be replaced.

Wu Pinhui added, " Uniqlo's technology not only includes fabric technology, clothing production and design ideas, but also the entire industrial chain accumulated over the years. " This has formed a solid barrier that other old and new brands can hardly replicate.

After entering China for 30 years, Uniqlo worked with suppliers to build a supply chain in the first 10 years, and only entered retail in the next 20 years, doing brands, stores, stores, and digital retail that has been increasingly invested in recent years.

In 2017, Uniqlo proposed to become the world's number one digital consumer retail company. The following year, "Pocket Uniqlo" was launched, and new retail services such as "self-service cashier" and "same city order and pick-up in different places" were launched. Last year, Uniqlo also opened the world's first In the live broadcast room of each store, they want to create a digital ecosystem:

Thanks to the popularization of Chinese apps, small programs, and the Internet, we can connect official websites, physical stores, and fan ecosystems, create digital communities, connect physical and virtual, and turn every store into a flagship store.

▲Note: Uniqlo live broadcast room

From research and development, design, to production, online and offline self-operated stores, as well as digital management and communication, Uniqlo can discover new needs in a timely manner, and then quickly develop and produce new clothing technologies to solve new problems in people's lives.

A detail that is not well known to the public is the meaning behind the term "Fast Retailing" of Uniqlo's parent company, which is to "quickly capture customer needs, quickly commercialize customer needs, and quickly put them on store sales."

This entire industrial chain is also the reason why Uniqlo's products are "technological complexes" and at the same time affordable.

"Chinese consumers are becoming more and more rational in their consumption. I think there is really no need to spend so much money on clothing. We can save the money for traveling, going to concerts, going on dates, and going to the gym," Wu Pinhui said:

There are some things in life that can be enjoyed with a small amount of money. I hope that Uniqlo can give people this feeling.

Although Uniqlo positions itself as a technology company, it is also clear that their popularity in urban life is not due to technological innovation alone.

Although clothing is an industrial product, it has emotions. We also need art and culture.

Speaking of Uniqlo's trendy items, you may subconsciously think of the UT series.

UT is the trend symbol of Uniqlo, allowing it to harvest younger consumer groups. Although the UT series has also had some criticisms in recent years, UT is actually more like a pool now.

For Uniqlo, its significance is that it can constantly accommodate new cultural symbols , spread the ideas behind it, and enhance the vitality of the brand.

Kosuke Kawamura, who is famous for graphic design and illustration, has been serving as the new creative director of UT since last year. He said that he will continue to provide and display more different types of cultural T-shirts, making UT a platform for the next generation of artists.

In recent years, Uniqlo has co-branded with thousands of global cultural and creative content. This year, it has joined hands with IPs such as Detective Conan, Super Mario, and Makoto Shinkai. From inviting artists to reshape classics and creating together with the whole people, there are more and more ways to play UT.

Since last year, there have been more and more cross-border joint names. When asked about the different standards for Uniqlo to choose joint names, Wu Pinhui gave us a surprising answer: trend and popularity are not the most important points of Uniqlo .

Regardless of whether our joint name is a designer or an IP, they must first conform to the tonality of Uniqlo. We will not be limited to the so-called trend, but pay more attention to its cultural meaning, such as choosing modern artists Andy Warhol, Japan Jiang Ukiyo-e in the household era, all kinds of niche art creators, we value the originality of art itself.

There is another big change this year, which is the return of offline lifestyle.

All kinds of fashion brands have created an offline scene, young people have gone to check in and gather, and Uniqlo can finally make a big splash.

Now Uniqlo has launched a new product experience tour in China. From the early 10 cities to this year, it has increased to 20. At the UT Chaoman Exhibition in Shanghai, Beijing, and Guangzhou, Wu Pinhui found that everyone is still very interested in the two-dimensional culture. have a feeling:

In the past, a lot of the second dimension may be through animation and games, but now we try to convey it through life scenes, so that young people feel that wearing a UT can be cool and fashionable easily.

She revealed that in addition to the above-mentioned offline activities and installations, UNIQLO will also cooperate more with regional culture in China.

▲Note: Uniqlo's new humanities "Fuqu Liancheng" series "Sunny Summer in the North", new products in the series add "bath", "enjoy the coolness" and "sheepskin raft" and other unique summer elements in the north, and also cooperate with Lu Xun's art College and Zhongjie Freezing Point jointly create a series of patterns of regional culture

This new trend of entering reality from the screen is still helping Uniqlo continue to break new boundaries.

Stability is the risk, not growing is the same as being dead.

Yanai Zheng, the founder of Uniqlo, once said. Since Uniqlo opened its first store in Hiroshima in 1984, Uniqlo's expansion path has been a process of "one win and nine defeats"-this is what Yanai Masa himself said, and he also published a book called "One Win and Nine Losses" Defeat" book.

Uniqlo has been going all the way, employee loss, blind expansion, market neglect, and shortage of funds. These start-ups have experienced different hurdles, and Uniqlo has not fallen behind.

The "change" of Uniqlo in China is even more twists and turns.

When they entered China in 2003, they were like a stone thrown into the water, causing only a small circle of ripples. So Uniqlo turned to the "sense of quality" of the middle-class market, focusing on cheap but high-quality products, which made itself a successful transformation.

Later, when fast fashion brands emerged one after another in China, Uniqlo faced stronger competitive pressure.

They changed the product positioning to "LifeWear" – from selling only products to selling lifestyles , this spiritual concept card made Uniqlo stand out again, because people bought more value than the price.

After that, Uniqlo was pointed out by consumers that "the brand is aging" and "not fashionable enough", so in 2013 they used the UT series to play the slogan of "new generation T-shirts". This platform for free and diverse expressions quickly exploded, reshaping everyone's impression of Uniqlo.

During the epidemic, Uniqlo did not seem to be affected. It kept opening 80-100 new stores every year in China, and the number of stores has surpassed that of Japan.

Now, as a giant in the clothing industry, Uniqlo is turning the helm of the trend towards a crucial future-environmental protection and sustainability .

Also based on the advantages of the entire industry chain, Uniqlo can strive to be environmentally friendly from all aspects of the supply chain such as source, procurement, design, production, logistics, sales, and recycling. The rare point lies in its practicality.

▲ Note: From UNIQLO 2023 Spring/Summer "LifeWear Clothing Life" brand booklet

Last year, Uniqlo's polar fleece garments were made of up to 100% recycled fabrics for the first time. It sounds difficult to do it in one sentence, because all parts of the clothes, including the zippers, have to be recycled materials.

This year, Uniqlo will apply recycled fabric technology to more popular "fist products". For example, the new beauty sunscreen clothing this year uses up to 75% recycled polyester fiber; the first 100% recycled polyester fiber Dry-EX Quick-drying clothes; the first AIRism top made from 54% recycled polyester and more.

▲Note: From UNIQLO 2023 Spring/Summer "LifeWear Clothing Life" brand booklet

They plan to replace about 50% of the group's clothing fabrics with environmentally friendly recycled fabrics by 2023. After all, sustainability is not only a trend, but also the social responsibility of a clothing giant in the future:

Our entire brand will turn business growth and sustainable development into a new "LifeWear=Sustainability" business model: the left is a sustainable closed loop, and the right is consumers, creating a new industry in the apparel industry.

For the general public, it is first necessary to change their awareness and product experience, and then generate sustainable consumption behavior and practice a sustainable lifestyle .

But the most difficult part of implementing environmental protection is to pass the cost on to consumers.

Uniqlo's solution is to make environmentally friendly products equally affordable.

Wu Pinhui said, "In the past few years before and after the epidemic, everyone's pursuit of quality of life, health, and sustainability has undergone some fundamental changes. Now consumers are pragmatic and hope that they can buy sustainable products for only one or two hundred yuan." .

In addition, wearing technologically advanced clothes in daily life can actually participate in energy saving and emission reduction, such as AIRism cooling clothes and HEATTECH thermal underwear, which can reduce the dependence on air conditioning. It can not be opened so high.

Recently, UNIQLO also opened the first RE.UNIQLO clothing rebirth workshop in mainland China in Shanghai, introducing the concept of "UPCycle" from abroad. Through sewing services and creative transformation services, people can "wear old clothes new" and send over broken clothes , make up a new life.

Regardless of the sustainable results in the future, at least Uniqlo has taken the first step to involve the public.

In the book "Uniqlo" written by "the first person in Uniqlo research" Yue Quanbo, he once talked about the innovation and change points of Uniqlo in the face of challenges and crises:

1. Research and develop truly excellent new clothing, and make the clothes into a "quality statement".

2. What is provided is not only commodities, but also abstract values ​​such as "fun, happiness and satisfaction", reflecting "clothing equals information". Functionality, material, comfort, silhouette… are all information about that piece of clothing that people order because they bring new value.

3. With the slogan "MADE FOR ALL", develop clothes that "make everyone wearable". "World clothing" means an unprecedented clothing marketing revolution.

This year's innovation has actually been centered around these unchanging essences.

Greater China has always been Uniqlo's core market, accounting for about 1/4 of their global sales. Wu Pinhui said that only during the Spring Festival business war in China, passenger flow and data growth showed a "V-shaped" recovery. Greatly increased passenger flow.

Even though the competition is still intensifying and there are still many uncertainties in the future, she is very confident about the future of Uniqlo:

On the whole, Uniqlo's brand and product leadership rank first in the market. The fierce competition in the market allows brands to encourage each other and positively eliminate them. The final winners should be the market and consumers.

When Uniqlo continues to advance with unchanging resilience in the turbulence around it, consumers obviously have greater expectations for this clothing company, which is the third largest in the world and the largest in Asia——

I look forward to a role that leads the way of life, can still have sincere and universal innovation, and look forward to its "change" as usual, bringing simple but better choices.

#Welcome to pay attention to Aifaner's official WeChat public account: Aifaner (WeChat ID: ifanr), more exciting content will be presented to you as soon as possible.

Ai Faner | Original Link · View Comments · Sina Weibo