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Maggie Spooner: Dressing down the drones

Uniqlo has landed in Berlin, sharing with us six "faces" that represent the city. Maggie ponders whether Exberliner would be a fitting face or whether we should be thankful that we don't fit in along those lines.

Image for Maggie Spooner: Dressing down the drones
Photo by Maggie Spooner

You’d have to be sight-impaired or a whizz at ignoring aggressive advertising not to be aware, by now, that yet another corporate multinational has opened its doors in City West – tellingly, in premises formerly occupied by Nike on the corner of Tauentzienstraße and Nürnbergerstraße. Casual wear is the new feeling. I guess people are buying their yoga sweats at H&M.                              

It’s H&M and Zara that Uniqlo’s parent company Fast Retailing Co., Ltd. wants to “outflank” on European markets in coming years. In addition to approximately 850 stores operational in Japan, there are now 10 shops in Britain, four in France, four in Russia and 17 in the US – with plans in the pipeline to flush American consumers with some 80 more in years to come.

Fast Retailing Co Ltd.’s own website is keen to draw attention to the store’s use of furnishings by German Bauhaus icons Mies van der Rohe, Gropius, Breuer et al. Actually more Dessau than Berlin but never mind, and honestly now, how long did it take to come up with that? And of course, the “six faces of Berlin” advertising campaign featuring Roland Mary, Daarum, Daniel Brühl et al: Daniel, I’m shocked. After all your ground-breaking work on specifically local products such as Spreewald gherkins here you are, endorsing a marketing strategy which will, according to Fast Retailing, show how “Uniqlo LifeWear fits seamlessly into the life of Berliners, regardless of personal background or style.”

An interesting concept: defining a city of some 3.4 million via a handful of its inhabitants. Why wasn’t Exberliner approached as a media partner in this campaign? Let’s talk outreach, shall we? We’ve been here since 2002 (arriving just after Daniel) and our Berlin blog has up to 12,000 hits a day, making us a pretty comprehensive part of the locality. Sorry to be so aggressive, but two can play at that game.

The drawback is, of course, that we don’t “fit in seamlessly”. What we do is stick out – and hold out for individuality, plurality and difference, not the deployment of a distantly designed army of dressed-down drones. Not only are we a lot cheaper than Daniel’s linen shirt – we’ll tell you where to find the alternative (just down the road, in one of Mommsenstraße’s numerous second-hand shops, in the real world of City West).

So Uniqlo, if you want to define your “Berlin-ness”, may I suggest a slightly modified approach (see photo). Our doors are open.