Fashion versus Clothes
May 15, 2010 9:52 AM Subscribe
posted by Sifter (44 comments total)
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Two articles about successful clothes retailers - Uniqlo
and Abercrombie & Fitch
- that are both full of interesting tidbits ("Uniqlo is a company that prescribes, records, and analyzes every activity undertaken by every employee, from folding technique to the way advisers return charge cards to customers. Japanese style, with two hands and full eye contact").
In addition, the two articles have a lot to say about branding and what companies place importance on - with A&F coming across as a typical fashion retailer, aggressively selling and marketing a very specific look, and Uniqlo seeming to be doing something quite different and contrary to received wisdom.
Both Unqilo and A&F have a founder/CEO who exerts strong control over the company; Uniqlo is headed by Tadashi Yanai, the richest man in Japan, whereas Mike Jeffries, the 61-year-old CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch, says "dude" a lot and has "aggressively transformed himself from a classically handsome man into a cartoonish physical specimen: dyed hair, perfectly white teeth, golden tan, bulging biceps, wrinkle-free face, and big, Angelina Jolie lips."
A&F is a typical fashion retailer; it sells a very specific look, and builds up the emotional pull of that look via heavy, distinctive branding that appropriates a series of familiar ideas, images and style cues from the past. Uniqlo is unusual; instead of building stores that are like sets for the movie of the brand, they focus on the way the clothes should be folded and the customer's credit card is handed back to them. “What’s different about Uniqlo is that they have chosen fabric, rather than fashion, as the area where they want to excel," says one analyst. This is quite unusual for a mass market chain that competes successfully against chains such as H&M which pride themselves on the speed of design turnover.