In Its First Global Campaign, Uniqlo Ponders Why We Get Dressed Every Day

To fit in, to feel safe or to build walls?

Headshot of Angela Natividad

“Every day we get dressed … but why?”

That’s the question that opens “Why Do We Get Dressed?” for Uniqlo Lifewear. Created by Droga5 New York, the brand’s first-ever global campaign features a man running through a crowded plaza as a narrator with a soft British accent expounds on what clothing means to us.

“Do you just throw something on because you’re late?” she asks. “Do you choose based on your mood, on the weather? The weather can change your mood, just like that…”

The calm voiceover, spread over the slow-moving image of a man rushing toward something—a woman? A job interview? A cat in a tree?—delicately unwraps the thoughts that slip through our minds as we prepare for the day. What outfits or fabrics do we choose to feel safe, to protect ourselves, to fit in?

She also sprinkles in tiny facts, all the sweeter when we know them: Warm colors, she tells us, release dopamine. A shirt can change how you feel, can make you happy. Soft textures make you feel secure.

“Why do you want to fit in? Why do you get dressed?” she goes on.

Uniqlo’s Lifewear is a collection of basics—knits, jeans, tanktops and long-sleeves—made to facilitate everyday life in cultures where people, and even companies, increasingly look the same. Uniqlo itself defines the selection as “innovative high-quality clothing that is universal in design and comfort and made for everyone, everywhere.”

As a tribute to that wide philosophy, the ad’s characters are nicely put together, but not ostentatiously dressed. An old woman gazes skyward with her scarf casually thrown over one shoulder. A hooded man slows to watch our protagonist with interest. Even the guy we’re following looks like he’s just thrown on a shirt and jeans, then slung the most immediately available trenchcoat over it: Its heavy cut is (not unpleasantly) at odds with the lightness of everything else he’s wearing.

The interesting result is that it isn’t so much the clothing we notice as the people—their faces, their expressions, the lingering regard of a long-haired man dressed entirely in black. And that’s when we remember that, for whatever reasons we choose our clothes, an outfit at its best doesn’t necessarily draw attention to itself; it reinforces who we are, illuminating our selves in a crowd full of strangers.

“Our endless curiosity to explore the meaning of clothing is at the heart of our new campaign,” explains John Jay, president of global creative at Fast Retailing, Uniqlo’s parent company. “By producing a global brand message from Japan, we are being authentic to our origin and who we are.”

This first global push is conspicuous: The Japanese yen is currently strong, putting pressure on the company, and Uniqlo’s business is underperforming in the US. The campaign’s purpose is to reinforce Uniqlo’s values—a “relentless commitment to quality, functionality and style”—to a distracted Western market while expressing its Japanese roots.

Our protagonist—and ultimately, the woman he’s running toward—is white, but the setting itself is Japanese, as are the majority of the ad’s other faces, an inversion on the typical ad ratio in western countries.

And while its look and feel may ring foreign to some, the questions explored here remain somehow both personal and universal, their relatability woven in almost seamlessly. They may even give us pause when, tomorrow, we run our fingers over the many options sitting patiently on their hangers.

The Fans. The Brands. Social Good. The Future of Sports. Don't miss the upcoming Brandweek Sports Marketing Summit and Upfronts, a live virtual experience on Nov. 16-19. Early-bird passes available until Oct. 26. Register now

@luckthelady Angela Natividad is a frequent contributor to Adweek's creativity blog, AdFreak. She is also the author of Generation Creation and co-founder of Hurrah, an esports agency. She lives in Paris and when she isn't writing, she can be found picking food off your plate.