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The Language of Clothing

Written By: kimmesome on December 14, 2012 No Comment

What I find interesting is how different companies use different methods to make themselves appealing to consumers.  The same company can even market its products differently simply because of a different neighborhood having a different type of people.  Something that is interesting is how clothing brands market their products differently to people based on location.  What’s more is that they use different types of language to help them do it.  Whether that means actually using a different language as in of a different country or using various types of signs or slogans and the like.  For the purposes of this I will be comparing two companies, Levi Strauss & Co. and Uniqlo Co., Ltd.

These two are interesting because Levi’s is a true American brand that started in San Francisco and worked to change the way that people wear casual clothing[1].  Uniqlo is interesting because it started out as a fairly small Japanese store. However, it is now expanding into the rest of the world, in just a few short years, with a new flagship store, the first in the Western United States having opened in San Francisco just this past year.  What makes Uniqlo interesting is that it started off with only very small roadside stores and not starting larger flagship stores until 2005, many years past its initial starting during the late 1900’s[2].

In San Francisco Levi’s has a flagship store in Union Square.  The Union Square location works actively to display the Levi’s core values of originality, integrity, empathy, and courage.  It does so by boldly displaying on its windows the phrase “Take a step in the right direction. Help us care for our planet.”

Uniqlo’s new flagship store in San Francisco takes a completely different approach to displaying itself by keeping the storefront windows completely bare, and even the entire storefront clean and only labeled with the logo, in both English as well as the Katakana Japanese, to show that its roots are indeed from Japan.  What’s more is that this is also keeping with Uniqlo’s values of being practical over stylish.  What better way to show practicality than by having storefront windows be just that, windows?  Also, it’s nice to see that even though it maybe expanding at such a rate that it is still remaining true to the values that it started with.

If we look at both Levi’s and Uniqlo’s stores in Japan, though, it is a different story.  Rather, it is difficult to be able to find a flagship Levi’s retailer in Japan.  Of the ones that you can find it isn’t really able to have large of a storefront because there really isn’t much of a storefront to be working with.  So, Levi’s in Japan takes advantage of this by having a very clean front that is meant to appeal to the people of Japan.  The fact that Japan is a much smaller country than America and so different ways of designing retail stores becomes evident here.  There is not as much room to expand horizontally so many buildings are built up vertically.  Which, Uniqlo, because it is a Japanese company, is able to take full advantage of with its massive 12 floor retail store.

I also think that it is important, as previously mentioned, to look at the values of each of the two.  It is fairly evident from the decisions that are being made about the design of their storefronts.  With Levi’s there has always been a message of philanthropy to the environment.  According to their website it is a part of their mission statement to advance the rights and well-being of those being touched by their business by the decisions that they make by promoting goo corporate citizenship[3].  All of which can be seen by their SF flagship store.  Levi’s seeks to grab the attention of others by, not only being an innovator in casual pants wear but also by showing to the world that a corporation can be a positive influence to the community that surrounds it and working to seek positive change through ad campaigns and storefronts that seek this type of positive change.

Uniqlo’s mission statement is about providing clothing, that above all else, is affordable, functional, and accessible to all people.  Their roots in Japan clearly show through this mission statement[4].  As the Japanese people value the beauty and power that is found in the simplicity and functionality of things[5].  Thus, Uniqlo seeks to create clothing that, while being fashionable, is also highly functional, so that it can be worn by many types of people in many types of situations.  Not only that but that it is also made such that it doesn’t have to have a large price tag on it as well.  That last bit, is what is part of what was able to make it grow so quickly, because it was able to be afforded by may people.  In that way, they were able to market their “unique clothing” so it had much market appeal.

However, just because both are now seen as widely successful, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t each without criticisms.  Levi’s, fairly recently too, has been criticized by Greenpeace about the usage of harmful chemicals in the making of their jeans[6].  This prompted them to release that they will now work to eliminate the usage of these chemicals rather than what they used to be doing of just trying to maintain and control it to a minimum.  Where with Uniqlo there has been some criticism about how their clothes don’t necessary match up with the ways that they are selling them because of a slight lack of creative appeal whereas their ad campaigns are full of that creative appeal[7].  Especially when Uniqlo first opened, it was just a simple warehouse with stacks and stacks of clothes that were sold for cheap prices without anything to make them stand out from other products.

It is with each their own decision about how to use language to present themselves that they were able to find such success.  Levi’s has it because it is one of their core values to innovate and assist in the communities that it enters.  Uniqlo has it because it is affordable and functional to wear.  It is with these messages that these companies have decided to brand themselves and have now filled their niches.

[1] http://www.levistrauss.com/brands/levis

[2] http://www.uniqlo.com/us/about-uniqlo

[3] http://www.levistrauss.com/about/foundations/levi-strauss-foundation/who-we-are

[4] http://uniqlomar.blogspot.com/2012/02/mission-statement.html

[5] http://www.spaciousplanet.com/world/new/7-principles-of-Japanese-Interior-Design

[6] http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2012/12/13/levis-to-eliminate-hazardous-chemicals-after-greenpeace-protest/

[7] http://www.creativereview.co.uk/cr-blog/2008/january/uniqlo-reborn

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