"We're trying to impress you with the amount of colors we have for socks," says Aldo Liguori, Uniqlo global director of corporate PR as he guides us through his Japanese clothing brand's soon-to-be-open San Francisco store. There are indeed, a lot of sock colors. The three-story Union Square space is home to many wonders, however. Walls of affordably-priced cashmere sweaters, a magic mirror, color-shifting staircases, heat-generating clothing, and -- perhaps most compelling to your reporter -- a $9.90 special on "Japanese engineered denim."
They have eggplant, dark gold, forest-colored jeans. An autumn palette rainbow. Grab them while they last. "They are manufactured in ChIina," said Liguori in a reserved cadence befitting a person whose office is in the Minato ward of Tokyo. "But to Uniqlo Japanese standards."
Not even $10. Elbows out on Friday, shoppers.
Sure, I spent the morning touring a chain clothing store. But Uniqlo is an exciting chain clothing store, way more exciting than Target, although maybe not as exciting as Top Shop. Te Powell Street location is the fifth full-fledged US location, although a San Francisco pop-up shop has been open since August a few blocks away. Would you believe New Jersey got a full-sized Uniqlo before the Bay Area? It did :(
Nonetheless, Uniqlo's been busy at the hype game here in SF -- promotional gambits have included online games involving Japanese cult cat Maru, and panel discussions held in the pop-up with Goapele and Mission Chinese Food's Danny Bowein.
Those $9.90 jeans are one of a few opening days sales -- you can also get their heavily-promoted, weirdly-lightweight down jackets for $49.90, and no less than six pairs of socks for $9.90. Uniqlo's big on basics, but a lot of the basics come with twists, like aforementioned Heatech line of heat-producing long underwear, tank tops, etc. I swooned at the SF store over the wool cocoon coats and Double Standard by Masahisa Takino line of solid, Helmut Lang-like pieces. Slouchy sweatshirt shrugs, futuristic-looking rain trenches, etc.
But maybe you're in it for the majick. You'll find it here -- like I said the staircases breathe rainbow. There are rotating army of fedora-wearing rainbow-clad mannequins, LOOK:
... and a mirror that, with the touch of a button, will change the color of the reflection of the fleece or down jacket you are wearing, so that you can see whether you're more of a rose or a silver.
DISCLAIMER: By popular demand, we'd like to remind you that clothes produced in China are not subject to the same labor laws as clothes produced here in the United States (love you, Guardianistas.) Please note, Uniqlo has a mediocre history when it comes to these issues.
Uniqlo San Francisco store opening
Store hours: Mon.-Sat., 10am-9pm; Sun., 10am-8pm
111 Powell, SF