Pret-a-Reporter

Uniqlo Threatens U.S. Exodus Amidst Trump's "Made in America" Agenda

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"It would become meaningless to do business in the U.S.," said CEO Tadashi Yanai.

Japanese retailer Uniqlo is threatening to bail on the U.S. market if President Donald Trump's push for American-made product leads to increased tariffs on imported goods. 

The Tokyo-based company, which operates 51 U.S. stores, including 17 in California, manufactures its product at third-party facilities in China, Bangladesh and Vietnam.

When asked about the president's "Made In America" agenda, Uniqlo CEO Tadashi Yanai told a Japanese newspaper that "if I was directly told to do so, I will withdraw from the United States," according to CNN Money. He asserted that the company is closely watching how Trump and Congress plan to execute the president's campaign promise to bring manufacturing back stateside, adding that if tariffs on imports were to be raised, "we would not be able to make really good products [in the U.S.] at costs that are beneficial to customers." The exec added, "It would become meaningless to do business in the U.S."

A spokesperson for the brand tells The Hollywood Reporter that their main objective remains to "stay true to our core business values of offering the highest quality apparel at accessible prices. The U.S. represents one of our top priority markets as a global company." 

The company has plans to open 20 more U.S. stores this year. 

Uniqlo is among a number of fast-fashion brands which have tapped the U.S. market in recent years. H&M and Zara are two of the largest international fashion brands operating (and finding massive success) stateside, and both plan to continue their rapid expansion in 2017. Earlier this month, H&M sister label & Other Stories opened its first American atelier in Los Angeles.

European luxury brands, too, have contemplated the effects of Trump's U.S. manufacturing goals. At LVMH, CEO Bernard Arnault noted that "a large part of Vuitton products sold in the United States are made in the United States." However, a report by CNBC points out that even if production in the U.S. were to increase, many luxury labels would still be required to import a large portion of their raw materials, like silk and exotic skins. The availability of skilled American garment workers and seamstresses is also a concern for luxury brands whose reputation lies in the quality of their pieces.

In addition to the U.S., Uniqlo has been pushing into Europe as well; the company has launched several collaborations with European designers and fashion industry figureheads, including Christophe Lemaire (who was later named creative director of the company) and Carine Roitfeld. Earlier this week, the company announced its latest collaboration with J.W. Anderson.

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