HLW Designs UNIQLO North American Headquarters
“You feel it instantly.
So comfortable, so right, so you—
Clothes that are who you are
And where you are going.”
- UNIQLO website
So why shouldn’t the workspace design feel like the UNIQLO brand design? In this three-part series of posts focused on the UNIQLO North American Headquarters, we will explore the design challenges involved in translating the brand strategies employed in a retail environment into a workplace setting.
The project involved the conversion of an existing 21,000-RSF SoHo loft space in New York City into a corporate office for the Tokyo-based international fashion retailer. According to project designer Matt Bishop, this was an opportunity to make this unique brand come to life in the workplace as it exists in the UNIQLO stores. “The primary design challenge was to create an office that reflects the culture and brand through a simple, yet universal, aesthetic,” said Bishop.
Designing UNIQLO’s North American Headquarters
HLW won the commission to design the new UNIQLO North American headquarters after participating in an international design competition. Early in the design process, we conducted visioning sessions to gather qualitative information about the project. These sessions also yielded substantial feedback on the UNIQLO organizational culture and brand, business values and objectives, workplace and individual performance, and employee connection to the company.
We learned that it is important to UNIQLO to be perceived as a global company actively engaged in shaping the fashion retail industry. UNIQLO successfully differentiates itself from other companies by developing unique products. From production to store operation, the focus is on innovation and efficiency—which is why the UNIQLO store model was an ideal inspiration for the headquarters design.
UNIQLO: Brand, Design and Culture
The discovery process, which continued throughout the life of the project, provided HLW’s designers with a roadmap for making future design decisions. A critical challenge for HLW and the project team was to create an office that reflects the UNIQLO brand, design and culture through a simple, yet universal, aesthetic. Several guiding themes were identified, including the following three key ideas.
Universal is Flexible
UNIQLO describes its clothing as “simple and essential yet universal, so people can freely combine them in their own unique style.”1 In response, we developed highly flexible design solutions and a primarily open plan, all of which enable people to adapt, combine, and modify space to support different working styles. Much emphasis was placed on collaborative workspace, including increased conferencing capabilities and touchdown areas to accommodate the approximately 100 people based in the office, as well as visiting teams from the company’s global offices. During a client engagement session, an UNIQLO representative described the culture as “minute to multi-hour meeting.”
Simple is Warm
HLW’s inspiration for a crisp, clean office space originated from the UNIQLO stores. Black accents contrast with the stark white space. The strategic use of color and texture contributes to the seamless, integrated space, one that feels warm, while still being sleek and contemporary. A variety of materials, a natural palette, and the inclusion of soft surfaces, all contribute to the office’s inviting qualities.
Brand is World-Class
The “highly finished elements of style,” to quote UNIQLO founder Tadashi Yanai, are to “suit your values wherever you live.”2 HLW interpreted this sentiment as a clear directive to avoid trendy solutions, concentrating instead on the global innovations that have made the UNIQLO brand an international leader in style and quality. Wall and floor finishes, fabrics, and surfaces throughout the office are demonstrative of cutting-edge design and technology, consistent with the client’s use of innovative textiles for clothing.
1 & 2 Quoted from the UNIQLO website.