By  on March 30, 2017

“Evolve or disappear.”The words were spoken by John Jay, Uniqlo’s president of global creative, who was quoting Tupac Shakur at the company’s LifeWear fall 2017 presentation.And the retailer is taking Shakur’s words to heart. Uniqlo on Wednesday introduced a spate of initiatives to the media at Spring Street Studios in Manhattan. That Uniqlo brought its LifeWear event to New York was news in and of itself since the company traditionally previews LifeWear in Tokyo.Tadashi Yanai, founder, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Uniqlo’s parent Fast Fashion Co. Ltd., made the trip to New York to tout the brand’s vast and varied offering and talk up its technological breakthroughs.Uniqlo was mounting a full court press to show how important the U.S. market is to the retailer's future growth. With mixed results in America since the launch in 2006 of its first flagship in Manhattan’s SoHo, the brand has suffered from a lack of consumer awareness, insufficient marketing and advertising and issues related to merchandising and product presentation. The U.S. operations continued to operate at a loss last year, although a declining one.Uniqlo last year quietly closed stores in Danbury, Conn.; Cherry Hill, N.J.; Willow Grove, Pa.; Northridge, Calif., and Staten Island, N.Y., amid weakening sales, admitting that the brand wasn’t gaining traction in the suburbs. Its strategy now is to focus on larger cities in the U.S., particularly on the East and West coasts, Yanai said.In addition to the appearance by Yanai, Uniqlo’s partnership with British brand J.W. Anderson was unveiled. The buzzy label, designed by Jonathan Anderson, is made with delicate fabrics, elaborate graphics and treatments such as ruching and commands luxury designer prices.“Everything from Uniqlo is perfectly made, the designs, they are reduced,” Anderson said on a video shown at the presentation. “When I think of Uniqlo, people have spent a lot of time considering the designs. It’s a difficult job, and I think Uniqlo does it very well. It’s nice that my design can be accessible to anyone, on all different levels.”Yuki Katsuta, head of research and development at Uniqlo and senior vice president of its parent Fast Fashion, explained how the brand’s technology differs from that of other retailers. “We developed denim in our L.A. innovation center. We’re introducing a 3-D whole sweater that’s not stitched at all.”Katsuta said his first rule for partnerships is, "I never make an inexpensive version of a designer's main collection. When we study clothes, we always evolve and improve. We do this from a Japanese perspective, but we always think it can be better to ask the experts."

Uniqlo wanted to work with a British designer and chose Anderson "from a huge pool of talented British designers. We don't do collaborations for a marketing purpose. We believe we're making better clothing for our customers. Collaborations also give us hints for future core items as well."

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