By  on July 14, 2010

TOKYO — Fast Retailing Co. Ltd. , the corporate parent of Uniqlo, said it is launching an initiative to produce low-cost clothing and create jobs for the people of Bangladesh.

The Japanese company is forming a joint venture with Grameen Healthcare Trust, a subsidiary of microcredit organization Grameen Bank. The initiative, called Grameen Uniqlo Ltd., will develop and produce inexpensive clothing and sell the items to low-income families within Grameen Bank’s network.

Executives said the effort is considered a charitable enterprise and Fast Retailing, which will own 99 percent of the joint venture, is not aiming to make a profit off these sales. The venture will become operational in October.

Grameen Bank, which was founded by Nobel Peace Prize recipient Muhammad Yunus, is a microcredit organization serving about eight million people in Bangladesh, 97 percent of whom are women. The bank had 2,564 locations throughout the country as of May.

“Uniqlo is a global company, a big company,” Yunus said. “The company we’re creating now as a social business in Bangladesh is a very small company, with a very big message. Grameen is not bringing money [into the initiative]. It is bringing ideas. Uniqlo brings the technology, the experience, and the purpose behind their business.”

Fast Retailing did not disclose a price list for the clothing, which will include T-shirts, sweatshirts and raincoats, but executives said many products will be priced close to $1 each.

Fast Retailing began manufacturing some of its products in Bangladesh in 2008 as part of its global sourcing operations. “I realized that without making a really valuable contribution to a country, there is no way [for our business] to survive in that country,” Tadashi Yanai, Fast Retailing chairman, president and chief executive officer, said at a news conference here on Tuesday.

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