When did you first realize that you wanted to work in retail?
When I realized how much I love to shop and that a staff discount is a great thing to have.
When designing for the Uniqlo customer, what three words come to mind?
Newness, color and intelligence.
What was the biggest challenge in translating the Uniqlo brand to the U.S.?
Figuring out how to express the brand’s essence and our Japanese heritage in a modern and sophisticated way that was still very commercial.
You’ll be speaking on visual trends at this year’s IRDC. How has the economy changed the role of visual merchandising?
More than ever, retailers can rely on visual merchandising as the most efficient way to change the look and feel of a store, while also changing a brand’s perception in the customers’ eyes. Unlike introducing a new product assortment or logo – which takes time and money – visual merchandising is a quick and inexpensive way to drive sales and reinforce the brand’s attributes.
How can you achieve this goal while working on a tight budget?
We’re repurposing props, refreshing old set-ups, using more graphics and vinyl, and only doing what we feel is important and impactful – nothing unnecessary.
What’s the most innovative retail display you’ve seen in the last year?
To be honest, I think our Uniqlo New York flagship is one of the best examples. We like mixing warm and cold, wood and metal, sophisticated fashion and mass appeal, simple and unexpected. It’s all about fresh contrast and an unwavering focus on product that’s always aligned with our brand values.
What one item in your office do you constantly rely on to do your job?
A whiteboard. I’m always putting up ideas, sketches and images that I find in magazines, books and on the web.
If budget weren’t a concern, what would be your dream project for Uniqlo?
Putting real sea creatures (sharks and big fish) together with mannequins inside the floor-to-ceiling glass display case in the middle of our New York store.
What’s the first thing you notice when you walk into a store?
Color, use of new materials and lighting.
Finish this sentence: “If I weren’t a visual director, I’d be a ...”
… fashion designer.
What’s one fun fact about yourself?
I have more shoes than Imelda Marcos.
SIDEBAR: FASHION REPORT
Grew up in Seoul, Korea
Studied fashion design at The University of Suwon, in Korea
Attended Los Angeles’ Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising
Moved to New York in 1999 to launch H&M’s Fifth Avenue flagship