Advertising: It's not what you wear, it's what you wear it for

Click to follow
The Independent Online

"You are not what you wear" was the original strapline for Uniqlo.

There it was, in very big letters on the boarding outside its Knightsbridge shop a month before it opened. It became something of an in-joke for local fashionistas, as in "Cop that fantastic 1974 Missoni knock-off Hussein ... but remember, Rifat, you are not what you wear".

It was clearly intended, so they thought, as an insiders' anti-statement, rather along the lines of Muji, the Japanese "unbranded" brand so popular in Soho circles. The impression was that – what with being Japanese and all – it would be in some way rather High Concept.

Now the TV advertising has broken and all the shops have opened, it all looks rather different. For a start, they don't use the not-what-you-wear line. And, for another, it looks as if they've actually got something to say.

I think it's as simple as good quality and good prices, which translate in film terms as "quality people" and individual achievement.

The Uniqlo theme is solitary sportiness and pushing yourself to the limits. In the two treatments I've seen, ultra-European types with very good faces – one an older woman, one a 30-something man – both do something pretty dramatic. The man dives off a rocky mountaintop, the forest below a spectacular green backdrop as he freefalls. The woman practises her skating in a deserted, open-air, floodlit rink, surrounded by snowy mountains. Nothing but the sound of the skates.

After an age the man's parachute opens, and after an age the woman finds the confidence for some pretty fluent Torvill and Dean moves. And they're both wearing this £40 Uniqlo jacket that's light but warmer than down.

It's all arresting brand values, and £40 sounds good if you're in the down-filled jacket market (I'm not), but there's no hint of irony and not much Japonaiserie.

They just say, baldly, "The Clothes Store from Japan" and name the other locations (altogether more modest).

Perhaps the drama's meant to say that brave, determined people don't care about brands or fashion. Actually some do, some don't.