Uniqlo is now focusing on its first made-in-Tokyo clothing, a limited release heralding a new design process and business model for operator Fast Retailing.
The three new items, which include a 2,990 yen ($27) 3D-knit cotton crewneck sweater, will be available at a Uniqlo flagship store in central Tokyo and online.
Fast Retailing plans to produce just enough to meet customer demand — a model made possible by the first foray into manufacturing by a company that had relied entirely on outside suppliers to make roughly 1.3 billion pieces of clothing a year.
The centerpiece of this strategy is a building in a manufacturing-heavy area of Shinonome on Tokyo Bay, with no signs outside connecting it to Fast Retailing.
In this tidy space, machines from Fast Retailing partner Shima Seiki Manufacturing steadily churn out seamless knit fabric. Operating around the clock, this facility produces 1,000 pieces of fabric per day.
The plant, started up in April, is operated by Innovation Factory, a joint venture with Shima Seiki that was a subsidiary of the knitting machine maker before Fast Retailing boosted its stake late last year to 51% from 49%.
The plan is to make new products from the Innovation Factory available at the Tokyo flagship store for limited runs, letting Fast Retailing gauge demand.