The refurbished UNIQLO Opéra flagship in Paris heralds a fresh chapter for the brand, highlighting its commitment to unparalleled customer service, unique store aesthetics, and a strategic partnership with the Paris Opera. Rooted in its historical background as a theater, UNIQLO has meticulously crafted a retail experience that seamlessly blends its philosophy of elevated basics with the cultural essence of its surroundings.
After a nine-month renovation period, the UNIQLO Opéra flagship is ready to impress with its revamped design, inspired by its historical ties to the theater and a newly formed partnership with the Paris Opera. This grand reopening coincides with the launch of Clare Waight Keller’s debut collection for UNIQLO, a collaboration that reinforces the brand’s dedication to redefining everyday wear with a focus on design, function, and quality. Keller, a former designer for Chloé and GIVENCHY, joins a roster of esteemed collaborators, including Christophe Lemaire, Inès de La Fressange, and JW Anderson.
UNIQLO’s steadfast commitment to offering steady basics rather than fast fashion sets it apart from nearby competitors Zara and H&M. Taku Morikawa, CEO of UNIQLO Europe, affirms, “We’re not a fast fashion player at all, by the way. We don’t do fashion; we are about redefining components for everyday wear.” This fundamental philosophy is further amplified by bringing Waight Keller into the fold, a move aimed at bolstering the brand’s womenswear offerings, a key area targeted for growth.
The redesign of the flagship store places the women’s department front and center, reflecting a broader strategy to enhance womenswear across all markets. Morikawa emphasizes the significance of not only the product but also the shopping experience and store appeal in attracting female customers. This includes adopting a “Japanese hospitality mindset” and opening a tailoring and repair bar manned by six employees, ready to attach vintage buttons or Sashiko stitching patches, enhancing the overall customer experience.
The refurbishment of the UNIQLO Opéra store embraces the neighborhood’s rich cultural heritage, notably the grandeur of the Opera Garnier. This influenced the in-house design team to accentuate the building’s 19th-century staircase and arched windows while incorporating a soaring skylight and additional views of the historical structure. Hidden architectural treasures, such as an old marble fireplace, were unveiled and now serve as focal points in a series of dressing rooms.
This thoughtful approach to store design, previously implemented in the Covent Garden store in London, aligns with the brand’s functional and modular aesthetic while also integrating advanced tech features, such as 28 self-checkout stations. With 26 stores in France and new outposts in Annecy and Luxembourg slated to open before year-end, UNIQLO continues to expand its European footprint, fueled by valuable local customer insights gained during the pandemic.
While the UNIQLO Opéra store is strategically located in one of the world’s most frequented tourist spots, it also serves as a hub for local residents. Morikawa sees the Opera location as a central point amidst seven other UNIQLO stores in Paris, partnering with local artists and brands like Sanae Nicolas, Cuvée Noire, Le Chocolat des Français, and Tom Ducarouge to enhance its connection with the community.
European growth remains a top priority for UNIQLO and its parent company, Fast Retailing. Currently boasting 70 stores in Europe, excluding Russia, the brand aims to accelerate store openings in new markets and cities, with a focus on eastern Europe. Morikawa emphasizes that the goal is not merely to increase sales and profitability but to deliver the essence of UNIQLO, encompassing its product offerings, customer service, and overall company values.
While online sales account for 20% of UNIQLO’s European business, the physical store remains paramount in providing an atmosphere that enables customers to fully grasp the essence of UNIQLO. Morikawa stresses the importance of a balanced expansion strategy, combining increased sales and profitability with a long-term vision of building respect and avoiding being misunderstood as a fast-fashion brand.
The UNIQLO Opéra flagship is more than just a retail store; it is a symbol of UNIQLO’s commitment to redefining everyday wear, enhancing customer service, and deeply integrating itself within the local and international community. As UNIQLO continues its European expansion, the focus remains on delivering the core values of the company, thereby solidifying its position as a respected and admired global brand.
© Photos: UNIQLO
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