TOKYO — H&M who? Uniqlo will become the main Olympic partner and official clothing partner for the Swedish Olympic and Paralympic teams, the fashion chain and the Swedish Olympic Committee announced at a joint press conference in the Japanese capital Thursday.
Peter Reinebo, chief executive officer of the Swedish Olympic Committee, said the partnership “came out quite naturally through history, culture, but also a cultivation of a common mission.”
The four-year contract begins this month and will include both the Tokyo 2020 and the Beijing 2022 Olympic Games. Uniqlo will provide its LifeWear apparel to Sweden’s athletes and officials, including clothing that will be worn at the opening and closing ceremonies, as well as during training and competition, press engagements, and leisure time. The Japanese clothing retailer will immediately supply the team with a selection of its current items, and in the second half of this year it will begin working with the Swedish national team to create custom styles and colors specifically for the athletes.
Uniqlo has previously supplied uniforms for Japan’s Olympic team, including for the 2002 and 2004 games. Asked why the company didn’t again enter into an agreement with the team of its home country, Tadashi Yanai, chairman, president and ceo of Uniqlo’s parent company Fast Retailing, responded that it wasn’t necessarily his choice.
“Naturally, we wanted to provide the official uniforms for the Japanese team, but unfortunately due to extenuating circumstances we weren’t able to make that happen,” the executive said. “However, even though Sweden is a small country, it has performed amazingly well at the Olympics. So I think being able to provide the official uniforms to Sweden is just as, if not more exciting, than providing Japan’s uniforms.”
Asked why he passed over H&M or another Swedish brand, Reinebo said there were a variety of factors that attracted him and his team to Uniqlo.
“We were impressed with the values and the quality of the products. And the joint history between Sweden and Japan is great in our eyes. We have worked many years together with Japanese sports, and it was quite obvious when we started to look for a new partner that Japan was a country we were interested in,” Reinebo said, also citing an immediate complicity in terms of values “that had to do with passion, and that had to do with trying to create a good cooperation.”
Uniqlo opened its first store in Sweden last August in the capital city of Stockholm. But Yanai said expanding the company’s business in the country is not a “direct” reason for the partnership with the Swedish Olympic Committee.
“It is more about offering even better clothing to the Swedish people,” he said.