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Art Installation Transforms Apparel Store

The Koi installation at the Uniqlo store in Manhattan (Photo courtesy of Uniqlo)
The Koi installation at the Uniqlo store in Manhattan (Photo courtesy of Uniqlo)

(Filed Under Fashion News). Uniqlo, the Japanese retailer of affordable apparel and intimates, debuted an unusual display in its SoHo location last week: a 25-foot-long, 8-foot-tall fish. Designed by New York painter and sculptor Stephen Talasnik, the wooden sculpture, titled Koi, will float in the store's glass showcase at 546 Broadway through the end of August, at which point it will cross the pond to adorn Uniqlo's new flagship store in Paris, which is scheduled to open in October.

Made primarily of bass wood, the skeletal Koi is built on the plan of a zeppelin, a vessel that has long been a sort of obsession for Talasnik, who spent time in Friedrichshafen, the German home of the airship. He talked with excitement about the hovering and floating of the massive structures, and how this has always fascinated people, him included. His intrigue in floating bodies also extends to installations like the whale in the Museum of Natural History, he said: "I revere hovering in large-scale projects."

Talasnik was chosen for the new commission in a somewhat serendipitous way. Every year Uniqlo selects 10 artists to design a T-shirt, and it was for that reason the company initially approached Talasnik. Uniqlo became especially interested in the artist's work after a studio visit, when the similarities between his art and the Japanese aesthetic came to light. (The fact that Talasnik knew and wore the brand-he lived in Tokyo in the late 1980s-probably did not hurt.)

Uniqlo sells a variety of apparel for men and women. Their intimate apparel offering is limited to simple but colorful designs at decidedly affordable prices. Women's briefs with lace detailing sell for $7.90 while camisoles retail for only $10.50 or $15.50 when it features a shelf-bra. Meanwhile, men's boxers retail for $5.90 and "silky trunks" for $10.50. For both sexes, a variety of short ankle socks are available for $3.90. The company's US website features 282 items in the "inner" category (including socks). The company, however, acknowledged that the New York store does not do a "huge innewear business."

The New York City location is currently the company's only storefront in the States, although the US division was incorporated back in 2004 and the first store opened in 2006. This is slow growth in comparison to the UK where Uniqlo opened its first store in 2007 and now has 13 stores in the country. Thatss not to say Uniqlo didn't try opening more stores in the US. A few years ago the company also had other locations, including one on the Upper West Side-on Broadway between 79th and 80th Streets-but it did not last long. But, the brand is a hit in its home country, where it had 766 stores as of the end of 2008. The parent company, Fast Retailing Ltd., which opened the first Uniqlo store in 1984 in Japan, reported about $5.4 billion (JPY586 billion) in world-wide revenues in 2008, which puts it ahead of Abercrombie & Fitch.

The company also has retail stores throughout Asia, as well as in France and the UK.

more Fashion News >>

Published 06-20-2009 by Victoria Monjo

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