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VENICE, Calif. — To boost its profile in the U.S. ahead of an ambitious retail expansion, Uniqlo is launching an ad campaign with actress Dakota Johnson.
The latest in a series of celebrity ad campaigns that previously featured Charlize Theron, Orlando Bloom and Susan Sarandon, Johnson’s promotion spotlights Uniqlo’s easy leggings pants, which is one of the company’s core products along with denim and polo shirts.
This story first appeared in the April 20, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“People in the United States don’t know about those products,” said Shin Odake, chief executive officer of Uniqlo U.S. in New York. “So we need to introduce those products.”
The U.S. is ripe with opportunities. Uniqlo, aiming to reach $10 billion in sales in North America by 2020, already announced that it has signed a lease for a 29,000-square-foot flagship near Union Square in San Francisco. Currently operating three stores in New York, it’s also eyeing additional spots in New York and the suburbs, Odake said. Los Angeles stands as another prime candidate for retail growth.
“We want to expand obviously on the West Coast,” Odake said. “It’s a very important market. We have a team of people looking for real estate constantly.”
Odake didn’t provide a timeline for a store in Los Angeles. When asked about following fast-fashion rivals such as H&M and Zara to Los Angeles locales such as the Beverly Center and Third Street Promenade, respectively, he acknowledged the appeal of shopping malls and streets that host a concentration of retailers.
“We want to be where our competitors are, obviously,” he said. “In Los Angeles, there is no Fifth Avenue or SoHo area [like in New York]. The market is spread out in different locations. In certain situations, maybe the mall location can be a flagship for that area. The point is: we want to open up in an important shopping street or a shopping mall in that specific area.”
It was purely coincidental that Uniqlo’s latest ad campaign, conceived with Dentsu, was photographed in Southern California with an Angeleno who’s been immersed in the entertainment industry since birth. Claiming Tippi Hedren as her maternal grandmother, Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith as her parents and Antonio Banderas as stepfather, Johnson started modeling six years ago when she was 16. After graduating from high school, she started picking up acting gigs, including small roles as Justin Timberlake’s Stanford-educated one-night stand in “The Social Network” and an undercover cop who busts high-school crime rings in “21 Jump Street.” Her next big-screen appearance is set for April 27, as Jason Segel’s much younger girlfriend in “The Five-Year Engagement.”
“She’s really weird and really funny,” Johnson said in describing her character, named Audrey. “The character was supposed to be too young for him so he was really uncomfortable all the time.”
Johnson also recently filmed a TV pilot called “The Kids” with Lucy Punch for Fox. Directed by Jake Kasdan, she portrays “a young single mom and my brother is sort of a disaster and comes to town and messes everything up and helps take care of the daughter,” she said.
As for her own personal style, Johnson prefers a casual look. “I like things that are comfortable and make me feel good,” she said. “I like good colors. I like red a lot.”
Retailing for $19.90, the cotton-polyester-spandex leggings are available in sizes XS to XXL. After spending two days earlier this month modeling the leggings in seven different looks, including what she described as “business outfit, daytime, nighttime,” Johnson vouched that the leggings, which are designed to resemble five-pocket jeans with an elastic waist, should have a broad reach.
The mood of the Uniqlo photo shoot, held at the beach and in the backyard of an airy, modern house here, was just as easy and carefree. In one scene, Johnson was lounging next to a straw basket that popped with color from juicy oranges and plump red and green grapes. Sporting a pink plaid shirt and light orange leggings with her hair twisted into a loose bun, the lissome blonde described the mood as “just hanging out with my friends.” To enhance the Los Angeles lifestyle, she donned sunglasses from Oliver Peoples, another fashion brand that’s hired her as a celebrity spokesmodel.
“The feeling of the photo shoot matched the clothing,” Johnson said. “The clothing is superbright and cute. Everyone is really happy.”
The ads will roll out in Uniqlo’s global stores on April 20, then in Japanese media TVCM, followed by local media in the cities where Uniqlo operates stores. Placement for the New York market is still in the works. In the past, Uniqlo ran ads in publications such as Time Out New York, New York Magazine, The New York Times and New York Post.
“We are in the stage of building a brand in the U.S.,” Odake said, declining to reveal the budget. “The marketing expense is an important expense that we need to continue to spend to build our brand.”