Options: Congratulations on the reopening of Uniqlo’s iconic Fahrenheit88 store in the heart of Kuala Lumpur’s Golden Triangle on Nov 9. What made the company decide on such an extensive renovation?
Yuki Yamada: Thank you. We share the same excitement. This store holds a special place in our hearts as our very first in Malaysia, having opened on Nov 4, 2010. Since then, we’ve had the honour of serving the Malaysian community, learning from them and evolving with their feedback. Our recent renovation is a giant leap forward. It aligns the store even more closely with our loyal patrons’ expectations and represents our dedication and evolution and staying ahead of retail trends. The refreshed space also provides an even better shopping experience for our valued customers.
What can customers expect from the new store in terms of design, layout and product offerings?
The reopening of Uniqlo Fahrenheit88, guided by our store concept ‘Made For All’, marks a significant milestone in this journey. Our goal is to create not just a store but a true LifeWear destination, a modern, functional design with sustainability elements that offer a comfortable and inspiring shopping experience. In terms of products, customers can anticipate a rich and diverse array of choices. From everyday essentials to the latest trendy and season-specific items, our commitment to variety remains unwavering. We understand that style preferences vary widely, and our aim is to cater for every taste. In celebration of the store’s reopening, we are delighted to announce a special collaboration with local talented artist Red Hong Yi. This promises to bring an exciting fusion of art and fashion to our customers, adding another layer of creativity to the Uniqlo shopping experience.
Uniqlo Fahrenheit88 used to have services not available elsewhere, such as personalisation of tote bags and special limited-edition designs. Will this be maintained or even improved on?
Absolutely. We highly value the unique services and offerings that set our Fahrenheit88 store apart and are fully committed to maintaining and even enhancing them. Our goal is to ensure that each visit is a memorable and one-of-a-kind experience. In appreciation of our Malaysian customers, we are excited to introduce Remake as the latest service offered at Re.Uniqlo Studio, Fahrenheit88.
Part of the Re.Uniqlo programme, it contributes towards a circular economy through upcycling and the 4Rs: Repair, Remake, Reuse and Recycle. Under the new Remake service, sashiko, a traditional Japanese hand-stitch technique, and machine embroidery will be offered, providing customers with a wide range of options to customise their clothing. These services will help customers extend the life of their LifeWear items so they can keep enjoying them for longer. It is an important initiative in Malaysia because it benefits the local environment and communities by instilling a culture of prolonging the longevity of their clothing.
Uniqlo Malaysia started with the first store 13 years ago and has since quadrupled that figure. Why do you think Malaysians — and indeed the rest of the world — love the brand so much?
Indeed, it has been an incredible journey for Uniqlo in Malaysia, starting with our first store and now proudly having 57 nationwide. We understand that clothing should not only be stylish but also comfortable and practical for daily life. Our core concept of LifeWear embodies this philosophy, offering simple, high-quality everyday wear with a practical sense of beauty and ingenious details. This resonates with people — in Malaysia, and everywhere — who seek comfort, functionality and style in their choices. In essence, the love Malaysians, and indeed the rest of the world, have for Uniqlo reflects our dedication to quality, innovation, sustainability and a deep understanding of our customers’ evolving needs.
You’ve been with the brand for over two decades and it was in fact your first job. What have been some of your most memorable moments with the company?
There have been so many memorable moments that I can’t choose a specific one. Over the past two decades, having international experiences and meeting numerous talented individuals both within and outside the company has contributed significantly to my personal growth and taught me valuable lessons on how to be a business leader. What’s noteworthy is that my journey mirrors the Uniqlo norm. Long, fulfilling careers are quite common. This is because Uniqlo places a strong emphasis on nurturing talent right from the inception of their careers, with a clear path towards developing them into future leaders of the business. This commitment to fostering our people is at the core of our culture, creating a vibrant and supportive environment where individuals not only excel but also actively contribute to our brand’s continued success.
You had been posted all over the world before coming to head this region. Tell us about it.
Working in different global cities has been remarkable. New York and London, in particular, hold unique significance as these cities are not only iconic fashion capitals but also places of innovation and cultural diversity. One aspect that stands out is the presence of what we refer to as ‘landmark stores’. These are more than just retail spaces. They are a statement of our brand’s commitment to excellence and creativity, and are often architecturally remarkable. In New York, our 5th Avenue global flagship store is a prime example. It’s a bustling hub in the heart of Manhattan, where fashion-forward trends meet practicality. The store design is a blend of modern aesthetics and functional elegance, creating an immersive shopping experience. Similarly, in London, our Uniqlo 311 Oxford Street global flagship store is an embodiment of our philosophy. It’s a place where customers can explore LifeWear in a rich and diverse setting. Its design also pays homage to the city’s vibrant culture while staying true to our functionality principles.
What was your ambition growing up?
To become a business leader, which is the same ambition I am now pursuing. My parents are running their own business in Tokyo, and I greatly appreciate their positive influence and my family’s.
Which part of Japan are you originally from?
I grew up in Tokyo, but my family hails from the Tohoku region in the north. Japan experiences all four seasons, so you can enjoy the unique attractions of each season if you visit, from Hokkaido to Okinawa. Personally, I particularly enjoy autumn.
What are you reading right now?
I recently had the opportunity to read a book written in Japanese that resonated deeply with me. Penned by the former coach of the Japanese national baseball team, Kuriyama Note 2 Sekaiichi e no Kiseki by Kuriyama Hideki details the journey of how Japan ascended to become the No 1 team in the World Baseball Classic. The reason this book is particularly inspiring is that it underlines the importance of leadership, teamwork and prioritising the collective goals of the team. These principles are highly relevant to my role at Uniqlo, where fostering a sense of unity and working collaboratively are important to our success. It reinforces the significance of strong leadership in creating a thriving and motivated team, which in turn contributes to our company’s continued growth and innovation.
This article first appeared on Nov 6, 2023 in The Edge Malaysia.