Fashion meets function at Uniqlo


Evan Bell

Chicago’s Uniqlo is the first in an effort by the company to expand beyond the east and west coast regions.

By Arts & Culture Reporter

Japanese fashion retailer Uniqlo opened its first Midwest location in Chicago at 830 N. Michigan Ave. on Oct. 23. The three-level store is a myriad of clean, white walls, open space and chromium accents. 

Uniqlo is known for its emphasis on quality, affordability and function, as well as sportswear lines by former Paris Vogue editor Carine Roitfeld and French designer Ines de la Fressange. It has opened more than 40 U.S. locations, but the Chicago store is the second-largest, rivaled only by the Fifth Avenue location in New York City. 

Madi Call, a supervisor in training at Uniqlo, said Uniqlo aims to elevate everyday fashion and focuses on daily necessities above all else.

“We want to provide our customers with things they need and things they can live with every day,” she said. “It’s very minimal, but there’s something special about it that makes our customers so loyal.”

Call stressed Uniqlo’s selection of down coats, which start at $69.90, and ultra-thin HEATTECH, a Uniqlo exclusive heat-generating fabric that lends itself particularly well to Chicago’s  frigid climate, she said.

Being able to see and touch the garments makes the quality of the craftsmanship very clear, said Laura Garcia, Uniqlo shopper, citing the favorable prices and the variety of colors available.

“This is our third time here since opening,” said Alejandra Garcia, who was with Laura Garcia.

According to Dana Connell, an associate professor in the Fashion Studies Department, Uniqlo falls under the broad umbrella of “Fast Fashion,” an industry trend emphasizing the developement of products from ideas to store racks as quickly and inexpensively as possible. The store’s ability to balance quality and affordability is what sets it apart from similar retailers, Connell said.

Connell added that another of Uniqlo’s strengths is its unisex approach to apparel.

“There’s a movement in fashion right now [toward] less gender bias,” Connell said. “[Uniqlo has] a lot of great looks anyone could wear—male or female.”

Call said she hopes the streamlined approach of Uniqlo’s Chicago store will encourage customers to shop at Uniqlo’s physical location, rather than ordering from the online store.

“Uniqlo is unlike any other store. What we have is only the bare minimum. There’s no over-the-top frill to take away from the clothes,” Call said. “All of our mannequins and fixtures are in correlation with directing attention to the clothes.”

In addition to housing a Starbucks, Uniqlo plans to bring in an exhibit from the Museum of Science and Industry in the near future, Call said.

According to Call, additional plans include a charitable collaboration with the Chicago Bulls and other similar community outreach programs. 

“We want to [establish] Uniqlo as a community name,” Call said.

Uniqlo opened its Chicago location on Oct. 23 at 830 N. Michigan Ave. on the Magnificent Mile. The brand plans to continue expanding in the U.S. and hopes to have opened 200 stores by 2020—one in every major U.S. city.