Uniqlo discards fast fashion label with sustainability launch

Uniqlo sought to distance itself from the fast fashion industry during a visit to London by its founder who announced the launch of a range of clothing made from recycled materials through a partnership with textile manufacturer Toray.

Tadashi Yanai, president & CEO, Uniqlo.

Tadashi Yanai, president & CEO of Uniqlo parent company Fast Retailing, says: “We are mistaken as fast fashion but we were never ever disposable clothing. We stay long in the closet…it’s about high quality components and high sophistication in mechanics and technology.”

In recognising the need to address environmental issues he added: “We need to leverage scientific knowledge [for sustainability], which is an idea that hardly existed in fashion.”

Working with long-time partner Toray the Uniqlo LifeWear range has been created and its latest development involves the use of new materials with sustainability at the heart. The Dry-Ex initiative involves using recycled PET bottles to create a range of items that will be available from 2020 Spring/Summer.

The company also announced the new development in its down range that involves recycling its used Ultra Light Down pieces to then incorporate these materials in new down products. The first items to incorporate this recycled down will hit the market in the 2020 Autumn/Winter range.

Akihiro Nikkaku, president of Toray Industries, says: “We believe materials have the power to change society. Our mission is to offer high quality clothing with functionality, value and that enrich society with sustainability.”

Dry-Ex T-shirt.

At this stage Toray suggests the rationale for developing such products is to address the issue of marine plastics, which has dramatically risen up the agendas of shoppers, and that the amount of resources required to recycle the materials is not yet being made available publicly. This would give a clear indication of the true circular value of these new products.

During his London presentation Yanai recalled how Next was the inspiration behind him setting up the Uniqlo business 30 years ago: “It was natural fashion, timeless. I made up my mind that it was exactly the store that I wanted to build. I was convinced of this trend and this was my starting point.”

He outlined how he has built the business to encompass 3,500 stores globally that includes 13 in the UK following the initial outlet opening its doors in 2001. “Uniqlo has major stores around the world. No other brands are accepted across the world. In October we’ll be in India for the first time,” he says.

Glynn Davis, editor, Retail Insider