Maetel & Uniqlo: Japan and the USA
Uniqlo: Japan and the USA is the story of an interesting pop culture and street fashion relationship.
Do you recognize this woman? Her name is Maetel and she appears in Leiji Matsumoto’s classic manga, Galaxy Express 999. While traveling in Japan, my daughter and I have seen her in Uchiko, Ehime Prefecture and in Kitakyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture. I really like it that Maetel remains a part of the Japanese Psyche forty-one years after it’s first publication.
The first time we spotted Maetel was at Narita Airport. Her image adorned a t-shirt with the words It is a fate. Impressed, we entered the store and were introduced to the retailer Uniqlo. And yes, we purchased the shirt for my daughter.
Uniqlo and bigger sizes
I have mentioned that I enjoy shopping for clothes in Japan. It is fun to see different things. That being said, locating my size is often difficult. Although I have a slim build I am nearly 5’9″, and often I am simply TOO BIG for certain Japanese brands that only carry size Small or Medium. But Uniqlo seemed to be accessible – I could purchase a size XL!
When Uniqlo eventually opened a US website, I was able to shop online, hallelujah. The sizing is somewhat different; for me, I can choose a size Large instead of Extra Large in a sweatshirt, and I will fit a size Medium instead of size Large in a t-shirt.
But the best thing about Uniqlo is their collaborations with well-known designers. I can find some attractive, almost one-of-a-kind pieces (the collections are limited in stock and usually sell out). I do, however, have personal criticisms regarding Uniqlo. This is what I term “The Worst of Uniqlo”:
Worst of Uniqlo
First of all, the US Uniqlo site charges USD 7 for returns (most returns in the USA are free); secondly (brace yourself, my friends), Uniqlo sells an item they call a “Bra Dress.” (Even Google is confused by this.) Before your imagination starts running amok, I hasten to explain. This is a dress with a built-in bra. Not a shelf bra, mind you, but a contraption similar to an actual bra with two separate cups. One size fits all? Ick.
So what is the message here? “We want you to buy this dress, but we want to ensure you don’t go braless. We have a responsibility to the community to address that possibility. What if someone wore a bra with the dress and her bra straps showed? We would be mortified!”
Anyway – this is about Uniqlo: Japan and the USA. So let’s return to Maetel on that Uniqlo t-shirt. My daughter decided to wear it every time we returned to Japan. A fun tradition. It has been all over the country and it still looks good after eight years.