NEW DELHI — Uniqlo made its much-awaited move in India just as the festive season kicks in, on Friday opening the doors to its 35,000-square-foot store spread over three floors at the DLF Ambience mall in Vasant Kunj.
Tadashi Yanai, founder and chief executive officer of parent company Fast Retailing Group, flew in for the launch, saying this journey had been 51 years in the making — he traveled through the city when he was 19. India’s textile minister Smriti Irani; Kenji Hiramatsu, the Japanese ambassador to India, and Azushi Suzuki, general manager of Uniqlo, were also present at the ribbon cutting.
Two more Uniqlo stores are in the pipeline in the New Delhi area, to open at DLF Avenue, Saket and DLF CyberHub, Gurugram.
H&M and Zara have already established strong positions in India and there have been questions as to whether Uniqlo is late in its entry into the country’s $800 billion retail market. “India is not just another new market for Uniqlo. We are confident that today’s launch is the beginning of a long partnership in which we will offer Indian customers the highest-quality garments that will increasingly be made right here,” Yanai said after the ceremony on Friday.
The first Lifewear collection by Uniqlo was launched at the store, for men, women and children. The lineup has global silhouettes and is created using different technologies, including Heattech, AIRism, Ultra Light Down, Ultra StretchJeans and more.
Stressing the point of partnership, Tomohiko Sei, ceo of Uniqlo India, told WWD that the retailer had entered the market with a clear strategy to work with the local community, highlighting the special Kurta Collection inspired by Indian wear and artwork made locally in collaboration with Indian artists, which shows daily scenes from the city.
“In the years ahead, we aim to enhance lifestyles in India by offering more innovative apparel that draws on the nation’s distinct culture and traditions. We wish to contribute to India’s economic development in the process,” he said.
The Kurta Collection — created and conceptualized in collaboration with Indian designer Rina Singh — has prized positioning on the first floor, the first view as customers come up the escalator. The first Indian collaboration has chosen the versatile Indian kurta, which was essentially a men’s wear garment, but one incorporated into the woman’s wardrobe for its versatility and comfort.
“We found that the kurta is part of daily wear in India so we did this launch together. This is for seven markets initially, including Tokyo, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand,” said Sei.
Rina Singh explained the collection and how it resonated. “The kurta is like the day dress that women wear in the rest of the world, but we wear it with a pajama or a pant. But it is extremely versatile and can be exported to the rest of the world. Also for the different technological advancements that Uniqlo works with, there are a lot of options to explore the kurta silhouette for the global market. The caricature of Indian design is being explored everywhere, but yet there is a lot of value in Indian design, which is yet to be explored. We are a new age of designers. We are not ethnic anymore, and are a good fit for global design.”
“In terms of aesthetics the Japanese and the Indian aesthetics are quite similar. My clothing is rooted in 100 percent natural fibers, it has a sense of familiarity and that resonates with Uniqlo’s identity in that it is also Lifewear,” Singh explained.
Other global collaboration lines available at the store include Ines de la Fressange and Hana Tajima,
Only select Uniqlo stores have the UT (Uniqlo T-shirt) corner that comprises personalized T-shirts with various prints, a range of Uniqlo stamps and other pop cultures.
On Thursday, before the store opened, a sake ceremony commemorated the unit, and Yanai reiterated his commitment to the fast-growing Indian retail market. “The 21st century will be the century of India. Fast Retailing has long wished to open stores in India, in view of the tremendous potential of a nation of 1.3 billion people that generates annual GDP growth of 7 percent and has an average age of 27,” he remarked