It struck me, reading Fast Company’s recent profile of Tadashi Yanai and his company Uniqlo, just how minimalist the Unique Clothing Warehouse really is. Yes, I’d be a fool to admit that the brand embodies the aesthetics of minimalism entirely (have one look at their website), but also wrong to omit the small and large ways that it is visually reductive (the much lauded Jil Sander collaboration proved its potential in this regard, and even today a customer could construct looks in a similar vein from what is currently available – I certainly do). But what really occurred to me, reading this article, are the ways in which the brand is practically minimalist. For whereas something like Jil Sander may look minimalist, actually owning and using the products reveal other ways in which it isn’t (how minimalist is it really to have dry-clean-only clothes or to wear such delicate fabricates amounting to deep care and deep pockets?)
Naoki Takizawa, who previously worked as the lead designer for Issey Miyake, notes that [a]t Issey Miyake, it was about putting on more and more, and at Uniqlo, it’s about taking away. Cut, cut, cut!
Speaking of an autumn/winter 2012 parker, Jeff Chu writes:
But what’s more interesting is the product’s evolution. Pointing to a single seam on the left side, he notes, Two lines is much more complicated to sew. One continuous line is easier. And 20 seconds shorter.
The storied Japanese business philosophy of kaizen – roughly, continuous improvement – has been applied to HeatTech. From season to season, the improvements can be dramatic. The 2011 yarn has 88 threads, the 2012 just 64 – but it’s even warmer! the worker says.
I kind of like to think of Uniqlo as the Apple of the clothing industry: continuous improvement, basics and simplicity for all, and the supply chain and mass production necessary to achieve this.