Uniqlo just hired one of its favorite collaborators.
The Japanese fast-fashion retailer known for its reliable closet staples announced on Tuesday that it is bringing John C Jay, formerly the global creative director of legendary Portland ad agency Wieden+Kennedy, in-house as president of global creative.
Jay, who was named one of Fast Company‘s Most Creative People in 2011, has a reputation for unearthing local art, music, and creative talent in cities across the globe–from Tokyo to Shanghai to London–and blending all those cosmopolitan sensibilities together to create work that feels new. Jay’s resume includes campaigns for Nike, Target, and, of course, Uniqlo, which was one of his first clients at Wieden+Kennedy.
“We have had a long-standing relationship with Mr. Jay, ever since the first work we did together on a campaign for Uniqlo Fleece products, back in 1999,” Tadashi Yanai, the hamburger-obsessed CEO and founder of Uniqlo said in a statement. “This was the beginning of a totally new direction and way of thinking for Uniqlo, especially in terms of innovative and creative communication.”
The retailer has developed something of a reputation for squeezing out collections from serious design talent, getting everyone from minimalist German designer Jil Sander to subversive cult favorite Jun Takashi of Undercover to spearhead collaborations.
In Fast Company‘s 2012 profile of Uniqlo, Yanai revealed that Jay’s eye proved crucial in helping the clothier grow into a multi-billion dollar behemoth looking to gain on H&M and Zara. Here’s an excerpt:
Jay, who had worked at Bloomingdale’s for more than a decade, first as creative director and then as marketing director, sent several Uniqlo fleeces to New York and asked his colleagues to do street-level research. “They spent two days getting people around SoHo to try on the fleeces,” he recalls. “People said, ‘Incredible! Luxurious! How lightweight!’ Then we asked, ‘How much would you pay for it?’ And they said, ‘This has got to be $50 or $75.’ Some even said $100. But that fleece was $19. I showed the video to Mr. Yanai, and I said, ‘Here’s your future.’ ”
Uniqlo knew how to make the clothing; it didn’t know how to show the shopper what he could do with it. For instance, Jay and his team helped Uniqlo better display men’s dress shirts, hanging them and just rolling up the sleeves. “Fairly common for us, but it was eye-opening for them,” Jay says. “Rolling up the sleeves insinuated the lifestyle of the people it was intended for. They realized it was a form of storytelling.”