Who knew that the humble zipper could cause so much intrigue?

Those three ubiquitous capital letters on the metal tab that fastens your jeans might seem like an insignificant detail, but what if we told you that they’re the hallmark of an industry worth £10 billion?

You’re probably already familiar with YKK - a Japanese brand founded in 1934 by Tadao Yoshida that has been dominating the zipper market for most of the last seventy years – but their supremacy is at stake.

A relative newcomer to the market - SBS Zippers - is a Chinese firm that was founded in 1984. In recent years it has become a major worldwide force by selling affordable zippers to mass-market brands like North Face, H&M and Mango.

As a result, the two Asian superpower firms are now in a battle to outdo one another for international zipper domination and neither is going down without a fight.

Why? It might seem mundane but by 2020, the global zipper market is expected to be worth a mammoth £10 billion.  


Japan’s YKK Group and China’s SBS control more than half the world’s zipper supply

Despite YKK making roughly half of all the zippers on earth, prominent clients have been opting to buy from Chinese competitors instead. To combat this, the company is adapting to the shifting market by looking to higher-end brands instead – a market which was previously controlled by European brands like Lampo and RiRi.

To make things more complicated, SBS are also shooting for luxury clients but so far, YKK are having much greater success. According to Business of Fashion, this is because it not only make zippers, “but also the equipment that allows them to do so.” 

For a seemingly humdrum trade, the global zipper business is unleashing some serious fury but, who will come out on top?