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By John Allan

In the world of fashion retailing, the British high street is one of the most competitive and also one of the hardest to break for many overseas retailers. Sure enough, many international fashion chains populate our shopping streets, but even they have reported difficulties keeping up to speed with the savvy British consumer after unique, fast fashion.

Back in 2001, Japan’s biggest casualwear retailer, Uniqlo, expanded its brand over here, opening many high profile stores nationwide like a carpet bomb assault on the British high street. However, after two years and shrinking profit margins it downscaled dramatically having completely misjudged the UK market. A small hiatus and huge brainstorm back at HQ later, Uniqlo is back and well worth a visit – whether you’re on the high street or online.

In the last year, Uniqlo has enlisted the help of fashion industry pros to aid in the transformation of the brand. Photographers drafted in to shoot the campaigns have included William Selden, Miguel Reveriego and the often controversial Terry Richardson, all of whom have been instrumental in creating a new image for the brand that topples the towers of folded fleece jackets that the brand used to identify with.

Having reduced the numbers of stores it had opened six years ago, the ones that are open for business have had a refit and are now a breath of fresh air when it comes to browsing. The most impressive by far has to be the New York Flagship at the well-dressed end of Broadway, a block down from Prada and Armani. Although Uniqlo’s prices are a minor fraction of those of its New York neighbours, it has just as much buzz, filling its impressive atrium spaces and mezzanine levels. The UK is yet to have a flagship on this scale, perhaps the HQ are testing the waters after a few tough years, but the shops have an urban, street vibe, thanks in part to the enormity of cool T-shirts and denim in almost every fit imaginable.

Autumn/Winter sees denim playing a big theme in the collection, particularly premium denim, commonly associated with quality Japanese design and manufacturing. High waist, wide leg and supper-skinny looks are previewed in the campaign, with grey polo necks and crisp white shirts (tucked in of course). Men have a great selection to choose from too; the urban and simplistic palette of grey and black is key. Pieces to covet include a wet-look sporty charcoal blouson and tough yet trim denim for around £25.

Welcome back, Uniqlo.

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