Yo Douglas (right) addresses the audience
On October 18, USJC members in New York City attended an evening celebrating ten years of Japan’s iconic brand, UNIQLO, in the United States. Sponsored by USJC and hosted by the Parsons School of Design at The New School, this event featured wide-ranging discussions about UNIQLO, fashion retail trends, and the interplay between creativity and commerce in design.
The opening panel was moderated by celebrated fashion journalist Lynn Yaeger of Vogue magazine. She engaged UNIQLO leaders Yuki Katsuta and Fumito Kitamura in a conversation about how UNIQLO manages to stay a “cool” brand across so many markets over the years. The speakers emphasized that UNIQLO’s focus is on the individual wearing the products and not simply the products themselves. At the same time, UNIQLO applies discipline in its design to ensure that the products meet, and even anticipate, customers’ needs. They added that UNIQLO’s approach is to think about “style” over “fashion.”
Ryohei Kawanishi (center) discusses his design
The next panel focused on the business of fashion retail, featuring two young professionals in the industry. Nicole Beach, Senior Merchandise Planner, shared her career at UNIQLO moving from store manager to her current corporate position, and provided insights into life inside the company as an American employee. Yo Douglas, a 2014 TOMODACHI UNIQLO Fellow who graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in December 2015, spoke about the importance of global customers in her work at Gilt Groupe and how FIT’s Global Fashion Management program helped prepare her for the globalization of the fashion retail industry.
(L-R) Ms. Douglas, Ms. Beach and Ms. Yaegar
In the final panel, Ryohei Kawanishi, a 2013 TOMODACHI UNIQLO Fellow and USJC Associate who completed his Master of Fine Arts at Parsons’s Design and Society program in May 2015, showed the audience images from his collections. He talked about how studying in New York City has allowed him to combine his creative, political designs with a commercial approach, leading him to launch his own menswear line, LANDLORD. He also spoke about the lessons he learned during his internship with UNIQLO and the opportunities to contribute to society through Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities. The audience of students, business leaders, educators, and fans of the brand enjoyed learning about UNIQLO’s history in the United States, getting insights into the brand’s mystique, and learning from young professionals in the fashion world.
Click here to see more photos from the event.