“We are not a fashion company,” Yanai likes to say. “We are a technology company.” He is so fond of this line, he repeats it during each of my three meetings with him. Finally, I ask him what kind of technology he’d like to see on Uniqlo’s shelves. He goes wide-eyed and blue-sky on me. “One-size-fits-all clothing,” he suggests, thinking of fabric that automatically adapts to the wearer’s contours. “Clothes that do not require any laundry. Just rinse it in water, shake it off, and all the dirt is gone.” He thinks a moment longer. “Or depending on your mood for the day, maybe fabric where the color may change.”
Uniqlo is gaining on Zara, H&M, and Gap as the world’s king of casual clothing. But can Tadashi Yanai ride toasty, dry underwear to $50 billion in revenue by 2020?