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WHEN we’re running away from real tragedy: riots, plagues, and wars, of which we have seen far too much in the last two years, fashion tends to take a backseat. In a press conference streamed from Japan on June 16, Japanese clothing giant Uniqlo makes a case for fashion taking a leading role in crisis.
Uniqlo released a line of T-shirts under the campaign “Peace for All.” These shirts have been designed with the collaboration of various luminaries from different fields. This list includes prominent urban planner and architect Tadao Ando, Samurai, Inc. Creative Director and CEO Kashiwa Sato, model and designer Ines de la Fressange, award-winning author Haruki Murakami, and 2012 Nobel Prize Winner for Physiology or Medicine Dr. Shinya Yamanaka.
Back in 2001, when the company first aided Afghan refugees with donations of clothes and other forms of assistance, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that there were 40 million refugees scattered around the world. “This number has doubled already,” said Koji Yanai, Group Senior Executive Officer at Uniqlo’s parent company Fast Retailing Co. Ltd., as he outlined the urgency of the project. According to him, the number of refugees around the world totalled 100 million last month, citing data from the UNHCR.
Mr. Yanai is the son of Fast Retailing’s Founder, Chair, President, and CEO Tadashi Yanai (Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index 2021 listed the senior Yanai as the 44th richest person in the world, with an estimated fortune of $26.3 billion*).
“Many people are suffering from poverty, discrimination, conflict, and war. Of course, (in) the world, we are facing quite a significant challenge. There could be no other time for us to appreciate peace, and pray for it,” said Mr. Yanai through an interpreter in a speech.
The figures who helped design the shirts released statements where they discussed their vision. Mr. Murakami’s shirts have a drawing of a cat, and text that says: “save humans, save cats.” Mr. Murakami said, “I just wanted to be of some use (maybe not much, but still). I think it would be nice to create a world in which people, and cats, can live in peace.”
Mr. Yamanaka’s shirt has a stylized representation of DNA, and text that says, “Technologies progress. Humanity must progress. Science progresses. Humanity must progress.” He said, “I took part because I wanted to do something useful as an individual in addition to promoting research as a physician-scientist. The ability of science and technology to change the world for the better is entirely dependent on the people who use it. So, I added the message ‘Humanity must progress.’”
Ms. De la Fressange’s shirt shows a symbol of peace, the dove, spelling out the words “Peace for All” with a yellow background. “Today, designers and fashion brands must be generous and think firmly about the world and about humanity. I believe people will enjoy participating in this new and ongoing commitment and in expressing their views about peace in such a pacific way. Don’t you want to wear this T-shirt?,” she said.
Mr. Ando’s shirt displays a red drawing. “In today’s increasingly fragmented world, we need to reacquaint ourselves with the fact that we all live together on one single planet. That is why I have used this particular message. To achieve ‘The Earth is One,’ it is vital that each one of us thinks very carefully about what we, as individuals, can do for society,” he said.
Mr. Sato’s shirt, with the words “Peace for All” in black block letters repeated several times, was pretty straightforward. “I designed my T-shirt to convey the concept of peace, straight and simple. The repeated call for peace for all represents the feelings and voices of many people worldwide. It expresses a strong and heartfelt desire for a peaceful world.”
Other collaborations with other figures are forthcoming.
The shirts are available for P790 in Uniqlo stores in the country and online. According to a statement, 20% of the sales price will go to institutions including the UNHCR, Save the Children, and Plan International.
“This is going to be the first project that will donate all of the profits. That will be used for [solving] poverty, discrimination, violence, and conflict,” said Mr. Yanai in a speech.
“Clothing has a role to play in protecting people’s lives, as well as dignity.” — Joseph L. Garcia