Uniqlo Speaks to Gen Z With New Store in London’s Covent Garden

Uniqlo Speaks to Gen Z With New Store in London’s Covent Garden

LONDON — Uniqlo is digging deeper into the U.K., opening its second, new-format store in London in the space of a year. 
The store, in Covent Garden, has a different personality, and proposition, than its sibling on Regent Street, which opened in April 2022. 

At 15,600 square feet over three floors, it’s slightly smaller than the Regent Street unit. It’s geared at a younger and more local audience, with an emphasis on streetwear, accessories and novelty T-shirts with archive prints, and collaboration designs. 

It also embraces Covent Garden’s past, and present.

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The store, located at 19 to 21 Long Acre, is located in a Victorian-era carriage house, and is Grade II listed, meaning that’s a protected property of historical value. Uniqlo has preserved the original architecture and also created a central atrium with a statement staircase that divides the Uniqlo space from that of its sister brand Theory.

The atrium at Uniqlo’s new Covent Garden London store.


The site was formerly home to the multibrand store Bluebird, and the neighborhood is home to stores including &OtherStories; Tiffany & Co.; Apple; Cos, and the new-format, beauty-focused Boots, which is right across the street.  

On the ground floor there are dried flower arrangements, courtesy of London creative studio JamJar, that reflect the springtime colors of the latest collection and recall the neighborhood’s historic flower market.

A collection of linen shirts, in shades of coral, bougainvillea pink, and lavender are exclusive to the store, as are the loose linen-blend trousers. 

JW Anderson’s preppy collection of cotton shirtdresses, long V-neck sweater vests and navy blazers is front-and-center, too. That longstanding collaboration sits near a host of charity T-shirts made with artists and brands such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Roger Federer, Peanuts and the Dutch illustrator Dick Bruna.

The T-shirts are part of the Uniqlo x Peace for All initiative, which donates all profits to charities UNHCR, Save the Children and Plan International.

The dried flowers, and matching linen shirts, at Uniqlo’s new Covent Garden London store.


Upstairs, there is a whole area inspired by the archive prints, colors and motifs of the London Underground and the city’s double-decker buses. The space is a nod to the Transport Museum, whcih is a few minutes’ walk from the store.

Benches, stools and chairs have been covered in the brightly patterned, and tough-wearing, London Underground fabric, while customers can play on tablets and create their own T-shirts using archive imagery and logos from the Transport for London archives.

There is also a café, a collaboration with Katsute100, the Japanese boutique and tea rooms, and an area inspired by the imagery from the Covent Garden book and print shop Magma. 

Similar to Regent Street, the store has an area for repairs and upcycling, and shares the space with sister brand Theory, which has a separate entrance on Floral Street.

In an interview ahead of Thursday’s opening, Taku Morikawa, chief executive officer of Uniqlo Europe, said it was important for the Covent Garden store to take a different, neighborhood-focused approach. 

“We’re looking at a different consumer profile, and we also wanted to show our respect and appreciation for Covent Garden, where there is so much history. We wanted the customer to feel they’re shopping differently here,” he said. 

The Japanese tea room, a collaboration with Katsute100, at Uniqlo’s Covent Garden London store.


Uniqlo first entered the U.K. in the early 2000s with aggressive plans to expand nationwide, opening stores not only in central London but also in suburbs and smaller cities. But the brand found it difficult to compete against the entrenched U.K. retailers and eventually pulled back on that initial strategy, closing 16 stores, most of which were outside central London. 

It has since regrouped and begun to focus primarily on city center units with personality, and higher levels of service.

The landscape has changed dramatically since Uniqlo first broke into the U.K. market, with many nationwide retail chains, such as French Connection, Topshop, Debenhams, Karen Millen and Oasis shutting or being swallowed up by online players, pre- and post-pandemic.

Today’s customer is also savvier, and more cost- and sustainability-conscious.

There are 16 Uniqlo stores in the U.K., 14 of which are in greater London, with the others in Oxford and Manchester. 

The Covent Garden store is the 70th Uniqlo unit in Europe, and Morikawa said parent Fast Retailing is always looking for opportunities to open city center flagships. 

“If we find a good location, and the customer demographic is there, we open,” said Morikawa, adding that the next flagship to open will be in Luxembourg. 

Uniqlo is currently renovating its Paris Opéra store, he said, to provide an “elevated” customer experience. It will open later this year. He said that, nowadays, Uniqlo is thinking as much about “people and concept” as it is about product.

Uniqlo’s new Covent Garden London store on Long Acre.


Morikawa said Uniqlo has learned a lot from its customers since the pandemic. “COVID[-19] saw a shift in customer needs and made us realize that we can help, that we can be a solutions-driven company.”

He said Uniqlo is increasingly asking itself questions such as, “How much does this product help? How does it function? What role does it serve? How do we address customers’ needs?”

Uniqlo prides itself on textile innovation and functionality. Morikawa said the company is particularly proud of Heattech, a technology that’s marking its 20th anniversary this year. Heattech clothing provides warmth without added bulk, and the products saw a spike in sales last winter as energy costs rose. 

Airism, which allows clothing to wick away sweat, is another example of how Uniqlo wants to use technology to solve everyday challenges. 

Prominent in the new Covent Garden store is a display featuring TikTok creator Caitlin Phillimore, who is pictured wearing her Uniqlo crossbody mini shoulder bag and showing the many items that fit into it.

Uniqlo said it’s proud to promote the bag, “which has a purpose” and costs just under 15 pounds.

According to parent Fast Retailing’s latest filing, Uniqlo reported a significant increase in both revenue and profit in the first half of fiscal 2023, with revenue rising 27.3 percent to 755.2 billion yen, or $5.63 billion, and operating profit up 22.2 percent to 122.6 billion yen, or $914 million, at current exchange.

The company said it saw “large increases” in both revenue and profit in Southeast Asia, India, Australia, North America and Europe. 

Theory has a space at the Uniqlo store in Covent Garden London with a separate entrance on Floral Street.


As reported, the company is making a big push in North America, with plans to take its store portfolio from 62 to more than 200 in the U.S. and Canada, part of Fast Retailing’s president Tadashi Yanai’s ambitions to be the largest apparel retailer in the world.

The company is also ramping up its sustainability efforts.

During a roundtable discussion last month at the Regent Street store, Kazumi Yanai, a director and group senior executive officer at Fast Retailing and the chairman of Theory, said Fast Retailing is focusing increasingly on forward planning, shortening lead times, limiting the number of factories it uses, and treating its manufacturers and suppliers more like partners.

“We want to have fewer factories and work more closely with them. It’s about us taking charge of the end-to-end business, and knowing that our responsibilities do not end when we sell our clothing to customers,” he said.

Eventually, Yanai added, he’d like to see Fast Retailing behave like supermarkets which tout the provenance of products such as carrots and milk, advertising the name of the farmer who produced them.

“Our ultimate goal is to have farm-level traceability,” he said.

That will take a while, he admitted, but in the meantime, Fast Retailing has whittled down the number of factories it is working with to around 700 in various regions such as China, Bangladesh, Vietnam and Indonesia.

Fast Retailing has also put systems in place to monitor those factories. Yanai added that Fast Retailing conducts surprise spot checks to keep manufacturing partners on their toes. It has also hired a third-party auditor to check its oversight of the factories. 

Another goal at Fast Retailing is to work with 50 percent recycled materials by 2030. The company has been taking steps in that direction by asking customers to return certain clothing, such as used down jackets, and by creating polyester fabrics from plastic bottles.

The company has been making a virtue of returns, flawed or out-of-season products by embellishing them with “sashiko” stitching or adding bits of patterned fabric here and there, with shop floor services that are being rolled out at Uniqlo stores worldwide. 

Uniqlo Opens Store in Tokyo’s Historic Asakusa District

Uniqlo Opens Store in Tokyo’s Historic Asakusa District

TOKYO — Uniqlo opened the doors of its newest large-format store on Friday, in the historic and culturally significant neighborhood of Asakusa. The store follows the concept of “our neighborhood” and aims to support the area’s local businesses, residents and artisans.
With a selling area of more than 21,000 square feet, Uniqlo Asakusa also boasts one of the longest continuous store windows of any Uniqlo store. It is located in the heart of Asakusa, which prior to the COVID-19 pandemic was bustling with international tourists on any day of the week. The area is known for its historic pedestrian lanes lined with souvenir stores and leading up to Senso-ji, Tokyo’s oldest Buddhist temple and one of its most significant. It is also a district that hosts the workshops and stores of many traditional craftspeople, some of whom Uniqlo featured in various ways inside the store.

The double-level main entrance to the store is dominated by a giant paper and wooden lantern, which was created by a local workshop and hand-painted with the Uniqlo logo. At nearly six feet per side, it was both the largest lantern the shop had ever created, as well as the first cubic one. In addition, signage used throughout the store was inspired by “senjafuda” votive strips that are a common sight at temples and shrines across Japan.
Uniqlo also collaborated with local businesses on various products to mark the opening of the store. For example, small ceramic plates designed with traditional snack-maker Asakusa Tokiwado will be available for sale in limited quantities, while original tea cups will be given to the first 3,000 customers to spend 5,000 yen or more during the opening weekend. There are also original UTme! stamps that are only available at the Asakusa store to use in customizing T-shirts and tote bags.
Throughout the store, Uniqlo has highlighted products from local shops, from stationery to skateboards, encouraging customers to explore the neighborhood in order to purchase such items and discover others. Other features of the store include a larger than usual space where customers can try on and order tailor-made items, areas highlighting sustainability and fitting rooms that feature artworks by a local artist and photographs of Asakusa from the past and present.

Jil Sander Talks Comeback, Uniqlo and the Perfect Coat

Jil Sander Talks Comeback, Uniqlo and the Perfect Coat

After many years away from the fashion scene, Jil Sander is back with a new +J collection that drops Thursday at Uniqlo stores worldwide, and online.
The German designer, acclaimed for her meticulous brand of minimalism, marked a big fashion comeback in 2009 when she partnered with the Japanese retailer for a new brand of well-crafted fast fashion. The fall 2011 season was the last for +J — until now.
It’s clear Sander still has more to say, and her latest exacting silhouettes for women include a short puffer jacket with fluted sleeves, neat merino wool cardigans and multistripe shirts with band collars. Men’s looks include an oversized work jacket, a down-filled blouson and sleek chinos.

Sander left her namesake brand twice in the early Aughts, and then for good in 2013, and took a leave of absence from the fashion world. In 2017, she was the subject of a major retrospective at Frankfurt’s Museum of Applied Arts.
Here, she talks about how the crisis has affected her design approach, her beauty aspirations, and why the perfect coat is a shifting quantity.
WWD: It’s been more than a decade since your landmark collaboration with Uniqlo. What took you so long?
Jil Sander: My last show for Jil Sander was in 2013. In the last years, I kept my creativity busy by building, gardening and preparing a museum show of my work. Meanwhile, I kept in touch with Uniqlo, and now the time felt right for a restart of +J.

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Jil Sander for Uniqlo.  Courtesy of Uniqlo

WWD: You’ve had many returns in fashion.
J.S.: Yes, returning seems to be my karma. I wanted to react to disposable fashion, and I knew what could be done in a cooperation with Uniqlo. The buying power, logistics and global distribution network of my Japanese partners make it possible to produce high quality design at democratic prices.
WWD: Crisis affects designers in different ways: How did it change your own approach to dressing and your idea about how people might want to dress?
J.S.: Of course, the pandemic was on our minds and influenced the design. I looked for larger shapes that can shelter us, for more softness and kindness. But my general approach hasn’t changed. I tried to advance my idea of sophisticated 3-D designs that underline the personality of the wearer. So, I took care to fit the volumes in a way that defines the body. I feel that we look for smart, well-tailored pieces that give us a boost of self-assurance and prepare us for a new start.
WWD: A prominent buyer once told me that just when you think Jil Sander has designed the most beautiful navy coat, she designs an even better one.
J.S.: I continue to work on basic items like the navy coat or the white shirt and alter them according to material innovation, contemporary proportions and cuts. This ongoing redesign process is like a study of time. If you like the new version better, to me that’s the essence of modernity. Since attractive clothes are not only about quality and classic cuts, they also ought to express the zeitgeist.
Jil Sander for Uniqlo.  Courtesy of Uniqlo

WWD: Is there a particular garment you enjoy designing the most? If so, which one and why?
J.S.: Maybe, I would name the Chesterfield coat. A coat is always shifting in proportions, it has lots of details I want to adjust according to a contemporary sensibility.

WWD: Yves Saint Laurent once said he wished he had invented blue jeans. If you could have invented one thing in fashion, what would it be?
J.S.: I guess, today, the light down jacket. When I saw the first light down in a hiking store 20 years ago, it struck me that this would be the new fur coat. I had been shaving furs to make them lighter, but the light down was their substitute. I do care for invention, first of all in fabrics, but also in new ways of workmanship. We had many innovative ideas in the past.
WWD: The fashion world is accelerating into digital. Do you shop much online?
J.S.: I don’t shop online.
WWD: Outside of fashion, is there anything you would like to try designing?
J.S.: I once designed the interior of a sports car, but I look at everything with a designer’s eye. And I would love to translate my experience and my idea of purity into a beauty line.
Jil Sander for Uniqlo.  Courtesy of Uniqlo

WWD: Last you spoke to WWD, you had a big exhibition in Frankfurt. Any plans to do any other such project around your fashion career?
J.S.: I am working on a book project. And our exhibition may travel, once we see better times.
WWD: Your +J collection drops today: Any predictions on bestsellers, or any advice for people who might not have your expert eye about how to choose the right thing?
J.S.: The collection is quite concentrated, but well coordinated. I’d advise to buy a whole look rather than just one piece. And one should keep in mind that larger volumes don’t translate into smaller sizes, since all sizes are body-fitted for comfort.

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