Around the
Neighborhood

  • Illustration by Cécile Gariépy
  • Photography by Yoshio Kato (Stills)
  • Text by UNIQLO

Clothing sustains life. This goes beyond our day-to-day routines.
When unforeseen disasters throw life into chaos, when people are pushed out of their homes or society, or when we’re struggling to make our own way in the world, clothing gives us the strength to overcome the hardships of life and the various problems they create globally.
Working from the motto of clothing made for all, not merely a select few, we’re reflecting on the connections created by clothes, as we head toward a world where nobody is left behind.

Clothing sustains life. This goes beyond our day-to-day routines.
When unforeseen disasters throw life into chaos, when people are pushed out of their homes or society, or when we’re struggling to make our own way in the world, clothing gives us the strength to overcome the hardships of life and the various problems they create globally.
Working from the motto of clothing made for all, not merely a select few, we’re reflecting on the connections created by clothes, as we head toward a world where nobody is left behind.

Establishing Lifelines

UNIQLO started in Japan, which has one of the highest natural disaster risks worldwide. Over the years, we’ve lent a hand to places shaken by disaster by providing clothing, and a sense of normalcy, to those who have lost the comforts of home. Broadening our focus to the global level, we’re establishing lifelines in an effort to rebuild social infrastructure through clothes.

Stocking the Essentials

Austin, US | 2021

Austin, Texas, whose delightful residents are featured in “Austin, How Are You,” was hit hard by an abnormal cold snap in February 2021, as difficult as that is to imagine now. Amid the freezing temperatures, several areas experienced burst pipes as well as blackouts lasting for a week or more, forcing many to evacuate. When disaster strikes, people need clothing in order to live their lives. Reaching out, UNIQLO coordinated with the city and local volunteer groups to supply the recovery effort with 25,000 items of clothing.

The clothes people need the most after a disaster are the absolute essentials. More than protection from hot or cold weather, these clothes need to be functional and plentiful. To ensure that those in need received an adequate assortment, we came up with the “LifeWear package.” These bags containing clothing and vital accessories like masks were distributed to 1,500 people affected by the cold snap.

We want these packages to function as emergency supplies as well, so we thought a lot about what they should include. Here’s one idea, based on our disaster relief experience and advice from specialists. Foremost, the package should be light and easy to carry. The contents should include at least three sets of underwear, along with stretchy clothes that allow for easy regulation of body temperature and a mask to stop the spread of infectious diseases. Clothes like bra tops make it easier to navigate the lack of privacy of evacuation shelters.

It’s best to have these clothes on hand, for when you need them, but preparing on your own can be a challenge. That’s why UNIQLO is taking part in hearings with local governments to develop systems for efficiently delivering essential clothing to affected areas in the event of a disaster.

Clothing shipped to the warehouse of Austin Disaster Relief Network, a local NPO, was sorted into LifeWear packages with the help of 200 volunteers. Contents included sweatpants, multiple pairs of underwear, and masks.

In the words of one man picking up a LifeWear package, “This is a gift of love and kindness. The things that people care about the most.” Packages are sorted by size, for easy pick up.

Clothing shipped to the warehouse of Austin Disaster Relief Network, a local NPO, was sorted into LifeWear packages with the help of 200 volunteers. Contents included sweatpants, multiple pairs of underwear, and masks.

We want these packages to function as emergency supplies as well, so we thought a lot about what they should include. Here’s one idea, based on our disaster relief experience and advice from specialists. Foremost, the package should be light and easy to carry. The contents should include at least three sets of underwear, along with stretchy clothes that allow for easy regulation of body temperature and a mask to stop the spread of infectious diseases. Clothes like bra tops make it easier to navigate the lack of privacy of evacuation shelters.

It’s best to have these clothes on hand, for when you need them, but preparing on your own can be a challenge. That’s why UNIQLO is taking part in hearings with local governments to develop systems for efficiently delivering essential clothing to affected areas in the event of a disaster.

LifeWear for Emergencies

It’s key to have at least three pairs of underwear. In evacuation shelters, where it’s often necessary to wash and dry your clothes out in the open, supportive innerwear like bra tops offer a bit more privacy than traditional bras. For both innerwear and outerwear, color is important. In the disaster preparedness handbooks compiled by local governments, it’s recommended that clothing come in blacks and grays, or beiges and dark and light blues, which are not obviously gendered at first glance.

Inner

  • 3. W's HEATTECH Crew Neck Long Sleeve T-Shirt
  • 4. AIRism Crew Neck Short Sleeve T-Shirt
  • 5. W's Regular Socks (3 pairs)
  • 6. W's AIRism Ultra Seamless Shorts
  • 7. W's HEATTECH Bra Sleeveless Top

Outer

  • 1. W's Pocketable UV Protection Parka
  • 2. W's Ultra Stretch Sweat Long Sleeve Set

Goods

  • 8. Backpack
  • 9. AIRism Mask
  • 10. Washable Room Shoes

To get through the first few days of a disaster, when access to supplies is limited, it’s key to have at least three pairs of underwear. Quick-drying, antimicrobial and deodorizing AIRism helps keep you comfortable and clean, whether used as a material for masks or undergarments. In conditions lacking climate control, HEATTECH allows you to regulate your temperature without bulky layers. The hoodie is easy to carry, while the sweats have a stretchy fit that makes them great for working or for sleeping. Indoor shoes help you relax after being on your feet.

Inner

  • 3. Woven Broadcloth Trunks
  • 4. Airism Crew Neck Short Sleeve T-Shirt
  • 7. Heattech Crew Neck Long Sleeve T-Shirt
  • 8. Colorful 50 Socks

Outer

  • 1. Pocketable UV Protection Parka
  • 6. Ultra Stretch Sweat Long Sleeve Set

Goods

  • 2. Washable Room Shoes
  • 5. Airism Mask
  • 9. Backpack

Even kids who find synthetic fabrics bothersome will have an easy time with AIRism Cotton, which combines a soft feel with functionality. To help regulate temperature, the three-day supply of underwear includes both long and short sleeve shirts. Long pants help kids avoid cuts and scrapes from rubble by protecting their skin, even in summer. Because it’s important for underwear to come in colors and styles that make it hard to tell who they belong to, we’ve provided boxer shorts for both genders, as well as bra tops for girls.

Inner

  • 2. K's AIRism Cotton Blend Short Sleeve T-Shirt
  • 3. K's HEATTECH Scoop Neck Long Sleeve T-shirt
  • 4. G's AIRism Cotton Blend Camisole
  • 5. G's AIRism Cotton Blend Bratop
  • 9. B's Boxer Briefs (3 pieces)
  • 10. K's Regular Socks (3 pairs)

Outer

  • 1. K's Pocketable UV Protection Parka
  • 7. K's Ultra Stretch Sweat Long Sleeve Set

Goods

  • 6. Backpack
  • 8. AIRism Mask

Help is on the Way

Japan and the World | 1995–present

January 17, 1995. On the day that the Great Hanshin Earthquake rocked Japan, UNIQLO experienced its first major disaster. When word came through that morning, staff at the UNIQLO headquarters in Yamaguchi, 500 km away, wasted no time assembling a crew and rushed to the site of the disaster. It was imperative to confirm the safety of employees and their families and to rebuild the stores as quickly as possible, for the good of the community.

Arriving after a daylong journey in Hyogo, the area most heavily affected, the crew found cities ablaze and buildings in shambles. The stores were in ruins, and employees were shivering and covered with debris. When members of the community lined up in the piercing cold outside our store in Amagasaki and knocked on the front door, asking us to open, we handed out our stock free of charge. People were in such dire need of clothes that our stores in Kobe, rebuilt one week after the event, sold out of all their products for multiple days in a row.

People were in such dire need of clothes that our stores in Kobe, rebuilt one week after the event, sold out of all their products for multiple days in a row.

This taught us what we can do to help out, in a nation frequented by natural disasters. Act swiftly, to deliver the clothing people need. Rebuild the stores, to mend the fabric of the community. Later, these experiences collectively informed our same-day response to the Great East Japan Earthquake, and as UNIQLO broadened its scope, our support efforts have expanded from places close to home into the wider world. In response to COVID-19, we have expanded relief into twenty-six countries and regions, which includes medical goods like masks and gowns.

Initiatives to Help
Combat COVID-19

Initiatives to Help Combat COVID-19

Aid and donation efforts underway in the shaded areas.
As of June 30, 2021

During the Great East Japan Earthquake, employees distributed commodities on behalf of local governments, which were short-staffed due to rescue efforts. As we handed people bags of items in the sizes and colors they selected, conversations naturally sprang up, like at an open-air market.

Initiatives to Help
Combat COVID-19

Initiatives to Help Combat COVID-19

Aid and donation efforts underway in the shaded areas.
As of June 30, 2021

Supporting
Individual Growth

UNIQLO has expanded into areas all over the world. In the same way that we’ve been nurtured by communities, we want to support those who have been forced to leave their countries, and those whose lives are fraught with hardship. By leveraging our global network and the infrastructure of clothing manufacturing, we can change the world for the better.

Grameen UNIQLO's Cycle

Creating Ecosystems to
Solve Everything Locally

Dhaka, Bangladesh | 2010-present

A global center of clothing production, Bangladesh is also a place where the social situation makes it difficult for people to find safe, secure employment. To rectify this situation, the clothing manufacturing industry needs to be organized so that all of the goods that it produces can circulate domestically.

In practice, this means clothing that is designed, made, and sold in Bangladesh. Meeting the local population’s clothing needs, and reinvesting profits in the industry, sets a new cycle in motion. Once things are on the right track, profits can be devoted to education and to tackling public health issues. Partnering with Grameen Bank Group, an organization focused on helping people in impoverished rural areas achieve independence, we established Grameen UNIQLO, which now has sixteen retail stores in Bangladesh, mainly in the capital of Dhaka.

The cycle depicted on the above may appear to be ideal, but it nearly broke on multiple occasions. In the hopes of making this a business where women could find empowering work and become more independent, we initially tried a door-to-door sales model, but after a year we had to change course. When a business’s future is uncertain, it becomes hard to contract work with local factories. It becomes hard to make ends meet. Through repeated trial and error, we exchanged ideas with local staff and made the switch to a brick-and-mortar model, making our way by developing traditional attire.

While fully realizing that it’s idealistic to attempt to tackle social problems without a solid business foundation, we’re sure we can do good if we keep on trying.

Grameen UNIQLO's Cycle

A team member greets you in a cheerful voice. “Welcome to Grameen UNIQLO!” At these stores exclusively, our logo is set over a green house, referencing the trademark of our business partner, Grameen Bank Group.

The selection at our Bangladesh stores includes traditional attire with fresh embroideries and designs, a departure from the simpler, more casual clothes found at other UNIQLO elsewhere.

Safe Spaces for Those
Without a Country

Global | 2011–present

“What country are you from?” The answer isn’t always easy. Some can reply automatically, but for others this question is incredibly tough. This includes people not recognized as citizens by the country where they live, and people expelled from their countries because of war or religious strife. We want to create space for all the people known as refugees, in working toward a world where nobody is left behind. UNIQLO has been supported by so many different communities, and this makes us want to be an inclusive space, where everyone can feel supported.

Leaving your homeland for a new life means overcoming barriers of language and culture, and a need to find secure employment. Since 2011, UNIQLO has maintained a program for hiring displaced people, whom we not only train for the job, but provide with supportive language instruction, while working with the stores where they are placed to foster an atmosphere of cross-cultural understanding.

Underway not only in Japan but in a total of eight countries, this project has become one of our most important initiatives, since after all, a clothing store can only function in a peaceful world.

Khadiza Begum, a member of the Rohingya community who became a refugee when she fled Myanmar, has found employment for herself and her husband, also a refugee, through the RISE program at UNIQLO. While raising their two children, she began graduate school in Tokyo this spring. “I’m told that when I say ‘Welcome!’ it echoes louder than anyone else,” she says about her store.

Khadiza Begum, a member of the Rohingya community who became a refugee when she fled Myanmar, has found employment for herself and her husband, also a refugee, through the RISE program at UNIQLO. While raising their two children, she began graduate school in Tokyo this spring. “I’m told that when I say ‘Welcome!’ it echoes louder than anyone else,” she says about her store.

LifeWear is for Everyone

Making clothes—especially clothing made for all—is about thinking from the standpoint of the person who will wear them. This goes beyond the transaction of the purchase. We have a responsibility to support those who need a helping hand.

Clothing that Enables

Seoul, Korea | 2019–present

“Happy—that’s the first word that comes to mind. Our representative and the tailor both really understand disability. They did an amazing job customizing the clothes to suit our needs. It makes me incredibly happy to see my kids looking so comfortable, now that their closet is full of clothes they like to wear. It’s like being in a whole new world,” says this mother of two sons living with cerebral palsy.

Since 2019, UNIQLO South Korea has been offering alteration services specifically for those with disabilities. Though this mother had tried to have clothes customized in the past, there were problems conveying the specific physical requirements of her sons, which meant the clothing never fit right. She even bought a sewing machine to do the work herself, but says her lack of training only led to lots of ruined clothes.

For those living with a physical disability, inconveniences are all too commonplace, and among them is a lack of choices when it comes to clothes. If it’s difficult to fasten buttons, or if limited mobility makes it difficult to get dressed, it can seem like the only option is to settle for oversized or stretchy clothes. After learning more about these challenges from an association of the families of disabled individuals, we developed this project in partnership with the city of Seoul, which has produced a comprehensive guide on methods for altering clothes. Starting with a consultation, we do our best to comprehend each person’s special requirements and the difficulties they experience in finding clothes that fit, after which we customize five garments just for them.

We may be clothing manufacturers, but since our experience with alterations is limited, we sought help from expert tailors. One member of the team is Lee Sang-Jong, who after thirty years of working overseas as a suit maker returned to his home country three years back and found an opportunity with us to put his skills to use. Lee says that working on these alterations has been a new experience after tailoring suits, in part because of his connection with the people who will wear the clothes, who tell him joyfully that “it’s like wearing clothes that fit me for the first time ever.” In Lee’s words, “Clothing means the most when it works with the lifestyle of the person who wears it. If you always try to think things through from the position of the other person, the clothes will come out better.”

At UNIQLO, one of the things that matters most to us is the idea of clothing “made for all.” Before starting this project, we asked ourselves, “What does ‘all’ actually mean?” This took some thought. Then it occurred to us—the people who can show up at our stores are not the only ones who might be interested in our clothes. There are people who would love to wear them, but never even try them on, because they don’t expect for them to fit. We pledge to find more ways that we can help make this a world where all of us can wear the clothes we want to wear, and feel good wearing them.

“Lots of these folks have never had the experience of wearing clothes that fit their bodies, and might not even know what size of clothing suits them best. That’s really tough,” says Lee, one of our tailors. Since muscle contractions and different body types can make conventionally sized clothes hard to wear, we do the alterations only after taking into account each person’s individual needs, as well as any orthotics and what we can do to make the clothing easier for them to put on.

Even not-so-flexible garments like jeans, down jackets and trousers can be donned easily once customized. Extending ankle zippers up to the knee makes it possible for those who use a wheelchair to put on pants themselves, while having a down jacket open from the armhole makes it easier to take off or pull on.

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