Wednesday, April 8, 2015
Isaac, outside UNIQLO on Chestnut St, Philadelphia
I stopped Isaac after doing a "personal shopping" tour of the UNIQLO store on Chestnut St and picking up some fitted sweats and a hoodie. My wardrobe was feeling incomplete, having failed to adapt to the "sportscore" trend that is allegedly taking menswear by storm. I learned all about UNIQLO's high-tech dry fabrics, their wire vs wire-free bras (not sure why that was emphasized), their efforts to cut costs by only manufacturing their pants in limited sizes then offering alterations in store, their recent partnerships with MOMA and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and their efforts to embed themselves into the Philadelphia scene by "collaborating" with bloggers and other "influencers." It was about a half hour tour. I got to see the backend of the store, the labyrinthine concrete passageways into the still-standing classrooms of the former Institute of the Arts building. I learned a lot about their branding strategy (i.e. social media madness) and target demographic (i.e. everybody). And I have to admit, I am a much bigger fan of UNIQLO than I was before. I like my new sweats. I like the linen shirt and chino shorts they sent me last weekend. And I will likely buy things from UNIQLO again someday, once the thrill of my new free stuff has worn off. But I couldn't help but wonder: is this really an effective marketing strategy? Spending so much time with low-profile bloggers like me? Don't get me wrong, I like the attention. I like the data such opportunities provide for my ongoing street style project. I also like the presumption that I have influence over others. I don't, however, think it is particularly true. Do my photographs instill desire in you, dear readers, to possess those items shown? Do they spark a consumerist impulse? Do they make you feel incomplete? Inadequate? In need of a change that only a good shopping trip can accomplish? If so, let me assure you, that is not my intention. I seek out fashion idiosyncrasies, counterexamples, special types. I seek out people who don't look like they're particularly susceptible to marketing ploys, people with a relatively defined sense of who they are. And if that happens to jibe with the branding strategy of UNIQLO, well then, so be it.