After months of announcing they were "Made for All" on buses and banners, Uniqlo's West Coast fast fashion foray opened on Powell Street. An enormously curious crowd crammed into all 29,000 feet of the double-height emporium to sip sake from traditional wooden cubes, eat delectable Mission Chinese Szechuan noodles on bamboo plates, and be heard over the energetic din. Uniqlo's name is a contraction of "Unique Clothing Company," and judging by the unlikely mix of earnest Japanese executives, Hayes Valley hipsters, PacHeights princesses, SoMa smartalecs, and a hefty dose of fashion bloggers, magazine editors, socials, and early adopters, everyone was there to express their (group's) individuality.
Which was easier because the goods were not for sale (yet,) because if they had, everyone would have left looking exactly the same in their new, reasonably priced ultralight down puffer jackets layered over Heattech tees. Which is how all of San Francisco, or at least Union Square, is going to look in a matter of days. Uniqlo's business model is complex, but its value proposition is simple: make a limited number of styles of basic, well-designed, well-made clothes, but make them in every color. Work with independent designers (such as Undercover and Orla Kiely) to create limited-edition pieces that generate excitement. Focus on Japanese-influenced customer service. And use the Magic Mirror to get everyone in the door to reflect upon their own pulchritude. What's the Magic Mirror? You go in, you try on a puffer jacket in, say, blue. Think you might look better in red? Touch the iPad keys on the Magic Mirror, and voila: the mirror shows you moving around, wearing a puffer that now looks red. Then try green, or orange, or black, or another of the eighteen colors it comes in. You mug for the camera as if it were a photo booth, and the photo shows up on screen of you in your choice of the red/green/orange/black jacket, even though you haven't removed the blue. And then, naturally, you can turn the mirror image into a photo of yourself to upload to Facebook and show your individuality. Even Snow White couldn't ask her mirror to do that. By the time those sake boxes were drained, the party had achieved its purpose: to knock the over-the-knee socks off of a city that prides itself upon being unique.
In the mirror, mirror: Chairman Tadashi Yanai, CEO Yasunobu Kyogkoku, Superchef Danny Bowien of Mission Chinese Food, an ageless Joe Montana, Dave Morin and blogger/brand ambassador Brit Morin, Magic Mirror mastermind Tetsuya Ueda, Pam Kramlich, Suzy and Damon Way, Vanessa Getty, Christine Aylward, R&B singer Goapele Mohlabane, DJ Miguel Migs, Yves Behar and Sabrina Buell, Stanlee Gatti, PR powerhouse Allison Speer, Bita Daryabari, neighborly retailers Stephanie and Tyler Mitchell and Bob Mitchell, Keanan Duffty and Nancy Garcia, Sloan Barnett, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, Alexis and Trevor Traina with her sister Claiborne Swanson Frank, Sandy Mandel, Roth Martin, Barbara Winchell, Zoo Director Tanya Peterson, Supervisors Jane Kim and Bevan Dufty, and many more who might be the fairest of them all -- at least on Powell Street.
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