Droga5’s New Uniqlo Ads Are a Delicious, Diverse Romp Down Advertising’s Memory Lane

When story mattered more than engagement

Last year, for its LifeWear line, Japanese clothing brand Uniqlo launched its first-ever global ad campaign. Created by Droga5 New York, “Why Do We Get Dressed?” was an elegant meditation on that very question.

This year, Droga5 London hopes to answer it more concretely. The latest articulation of this campaign, “Because of Life, We Made LifeWear,” features three ads, each exploring a different item of clothing—wireless bras, Uniqlo’s AIRism underclothes and Distressed Denim.

“Uniqlo make some of the best clothes I put on my body. Everything they do is dedicated to improving what they sell,” says chief creative officer David Kolbusz of Droga5 London. “Every iteration of every garment is a step up from the last. What we’ve tried to do here is take the rational reasons you buy their clothes and articulate them in the abstract.”

In a campaign follow-up like this one, you often expect to see stylistic similarities in each spot that tie back to the parent ad, either in turns of phrase or in look. But while it’s true that all the ads end with the LifeWear tagline, they have distinctly different spirits.

When Kolbusz talks about articulation in the abstract, he’s talking about something advertising has done since it first realized it could hook people emotionally—but that we’ve perhaps lost track of in this era of justifying your value and attracting likes, shares, comments and clicks.

This work serves almost as a tribute to a lost time, when great ads were mostly TV-based fantasy sequences that didn’t have to work so hard to explain themselves to a socially connected world. Yet there’s a thread that unites them—an ethnic diversity that somehow still feels minimalist and uniform, which characterizes Uniqlo’s brand.

“Wireless Bra” has the runaway musicality of Gap’s super-choreographed khaki ads from the 1990s. Directed by Autumn de Wilde through Anonymous Content and Somesuch, with choreography by Ryan Heffington (think Sia music videos) and styling by Nancy Steiner (who costume designed Lost in Translation and The Virgin Suicides), it shows women in conservative outfits, but in various states of dress and undress.

“Ants” by Starcrawler punctuates the atmosphere. The women leap, moving their arms and shoulders, twisting and bending in ways that challenge both behavioral expectations and the ways you can reasonably move while wearing a bra.

This approach serves the product especially well. Uniqlo doesn’t just promote the bra’s smooth nipple-hiding shells under unforgiving white button-downs, or the lack of constricting, painful wires. It defies an annoying quality about bras in general: Even after tightening, those damn straps always loosen, resulting in the defensive shoulder-slumping a woman engages in all day just to keep them in place. (And don’t get us started on strapless bras, which we spend more time pushing back up than forgetting about.)

The result is a spot that both promises and galvanizes freedom of movement. Reinforcing this, it ends, “Move like you’re not supposed to”—a playful, feminist appeal that speaks to modern bra-burners and resigned bra-wearers alike.

Next comes “AIRism.” An abrupt departure from the frenetic quality of “Wireless Bra,” this is slow-moving, smoky and monochromatic, harking back to the stylish but grainy ads from the ’60s.

Shot on the streets of Santiago by Nick Gordon, a smoky claustrophobia coalesces in what looks like steam from an iron filling a room, or the exhausts from cars in traffic … but it’s mostly just the grit and sweat rising off bodies, fogging up windows and condensing into droplets.

In some frames, smoke is the only thing that moves.

This one is narrated throughout by English actress Tuppence Middleton, who explains how our bodies stay cool by releasing heat into the atmosphere. Toward the end, she says, “Our bodies are made to breathe. So shouldn’t our clothes breathe with us?”