Posts tagged with "Uniform of Singapore"

How Uniqlo’s ‘Millennial Birkin’ is beating designer bags

Above, Uniqlo’s Round Mini Shoulder Bag in a variety of colors. (Photo source: Uniqlo)

May 14, 2024

A viral TikTok video of a woman reaching into her Uniqlo shoulder bag to pull out a long list of items—including headphones, perfume and an EpiPen—helped propel the product to global cult status. The company now wants to turn the bag into a fashion staple, reports Businessweek.

“I don’t think ‘viral’ is really a great word,” says Kanoko Takenokuchi, global merchandising director for Uniqlo, part of Fast Retailing. “I have a feeling that it’s not just a passing trend but is becoming a permanent item that will stay in people’s lives for a long time.”

The now-ubiquitous Round Mini Shoulder Bag—nicknamed the Millennial Birkin, Dumpling Bag, the Mary Poppins Bag, and the Banana Bag—was released in 2020; but it wasn’t until the TikTok video in 2022 that sales took off, causing shortages and helping to make it one of the retailer’s best-selling products in some markets.

“That was the moment I realized the power of social media,” Takenokuchi says. “Instead of just putting out advertisements from our company,; we should put out a product that customers really love, and that will spread and create a cycle of people buying more and more.”

Fast Retailing declined to provide sales figures, but it says the bag is still among its top sellers in several markets. Overall, the company is predicting a 9.5% increase in revenue to ¥3.03 trillion (US$19.7 billion) for the fiscal year ending in August as it continues to expand outside of its home country of Japan. The standard version of the Uniqlo shoulder bag is priced at ¥1,500 there, or less than $10 at the current exchange rate. It sells for $19.90 in the United States.

The success of the bag has also drawn copycats. Late last year, Fast Retailing sued Chinese fast-fashion juggernaut Shein in Japan, demanding it immediately stop selling “imitation products” and pay compensation for damages. A spokesperson for Shein says the company is “currently investigating this matter.” Fast Retailing also issued a statement last September, warning customers about counterfeit and imitation products that were being sold at stores unrelated to Uniqlo.

Now, Uniqlo is focused on making sure that its bag still stands out as the original and the best. The company has released pastel colors and additional fabrics such as crochet, corduroy and faux leather. It’s also teamed up with brands such as Marimekko and plans to bring in more collaborators where possible.

“I often hear people saying, ‘I already have three, but I bought another one,’” says Takenokuchi. “To make a product that will be loved for a while, we have to think hard and come up with new ideas for it because that’s part of the fun for the customers.”

Custom offerings by region are also part of the strategy. At Edinburgh’s new Uniqlo store, for example, customers can buy a shoulder bag that’s embroidered with a can of Irn-Bru, a Scottish soda often described as the country’s “other” national drink, after whisky.

Social media has helped boost some other Uniqlo products, as well. A tank top with a built-in bra went viral after it was featured in a Europe-based TikTok account last year. Its AIRism oversized T-shirt, meanwhile, is playfully dubbed the “uniform of Singapore” in memes, thanks to moisture-wicking properties that make it suited for hot climates. Uniqlo even adopted the joke in its marketing materials in Singapore.

“Social media really allows things to travel across the world in a split second,” says Takenokuchi. “I really feel that we should make a conscious effort to create products that people will buy, and nurture communication with the customers.”

Research contact: @businessweek