Uniqlo has underlined its mastery of the cheap chic market in Japan with the launch of a new brand of jeans. The new line - known as the UJ brand - will go on sale in Japan before the end of the month and focus on the three Fs, according to the company.

"Fit, fabric and finish are the fundamental qualities that people want from a perfect pair of jeans," the company said in a statement. "While pursuing these three Fs, UJ also keeps defining jeans of the new generation in their quality, design and price."

And while those three elements are undoubtedly important considerations for consumers, the economic downturn means that another factor is arguably even more crucial - price.

The new UJ range is priced to make it competitive with other companies operating in the same market sector - retailers such as Sweden's H&M, Zara or Gap.

The 54 styles that will be rolled out come in three prices bands; the premium line costs Y3,990 (€32.38), the colourful standard range is around Y2,990 (€24.26) and the basic versions cost a mere Y1,990 (€16.15).

Those are not the cheapest jeans that Uniqlo has turned out - the firm's Y990 (€8.03) range was popular last year - but more emphasis is being placed on quality this time around.

The company has been a key player in the movement in Japan to embrace cheaper products that would have been shunned in the past in favour of brand-name items, giving the company the springboard to take its business overseas.

Uniqlo will open its first Russian store in Moscow in March and has plans to set up flagship outlets in Madrid, Barcelona, Berlin and Milan, encouraged by its success in Paris.

The three-storey shop in the Opera area of the French capital reported the highest turnover of any of Uniqlo's 880 stores worldwide in October, its opening month.

Tadashi Yanai, chairman of Fast Retailing, which owns the Uniqlo brand, told the Wall Street Journal recently that the company could spend as much as $11 billion on further acquisitions.