Tadashi Yanai didn't want to work. But as the son of a tailor and a housewife in postwar Japan, that was not a realistic option, so he remained left to roll up his sleeves. After five decades of effort, Yanai is today the 29th richest man in the world and the first in Japan, with a fortune valued at 27.5 billion euros. His wealth comes from fast retailing, owner of Uniqlo, of which he is founder and president. The vital goals of that young sloth have changed: now it aims to make its brand the world's first textile firm,
Yanai was born in 1949 in Ube, a small town in southern Japan. He grew up in a humble house: the bass was his father's tailoring and the first floor was the family residence. He blames that "selling was the only thing I knew how to do right from the start." After finishing high school, he enlisted at Waseda University in Tokyo, from which he graduated with a bachelor's degree in Economics and Political Science. His only priority then was not to end up working on that ground floor. So his first professional steps were in a supermarket, selling cooking utensils and men's clothes, but it didn't last long,
the following year his father claimed him in tailoring, the business he would turn into a multinational. When he retired in 1984, having turned his workshop into a chain of 22 stores, Yanai had his change of course ready. That same year he opened the first store of the brand in Hiroshima that would make him a billionaire. He named it Uniqlo, an acronym for unique clothing, "singular clothing". In 1991 it changed the name of the family business to suit its ambitions: Ogori Shoji was renamed Fast Retailing, "quick sale".zoom in The first store in Madrid of Uniqlo, in Serrano street.
In effect: it was very fast. By then it was the fastest growing textile company in Japan. His strategy was to produce a lot and sell cheap. Tadashi Yanai had found, according to himself, "a gold mine." Legend has it that one in four Japanese had one of their famous jackets in their closet. The fatal blow to competition came when, in a successful move, he decided to move part of his industry to China to benefit from low production costs. From there, he made the leap into the world,
Today, Uniqlo has about 1,500 stores all over the world. Statistics say that every week there is a new opening. Many of them, moreover, in the most exclusive real estate spaces: a glazed headquarters on Fifth Avenue in New York; the most coveted venue in Sanlitun, the commercial heart of Beijing; another in Ginza, Tokyo's most expensive neighborhood... It opened in Barcelona two years ago and tomorrow it will do so in Madrid. On the occasion of the reopening of his shop in Oxford Street, London, in 2016, Tadashi Yanai stated in an interview with The Telegraph: "London is a showcase for the world (...), so we want to create our best store here: to prove who we are"
These words are directly related to his overriding goal: to make Uniqlo the world's first textile company, Yanai wants to leave behind the cheap clothes that have taken him to where he is. Its resolution was reflected in the 2004 Global Quality Declaration, a document in which the firm undertook to stop producing low-quality, low-priced products. "Uniqlo is no longer a fashion company, it is a technology company," he proclaimed at thezoom in A Uniqlo store in Tokyo, Japan. Kim Kyung Hoon REUTERS
Another of the reasons that led the Japanese tycoon to take this step was his concern for the environment. On several occasions he has stated that he considers "the environmental issue to be the most important problem in the business world": "Unless we are able to solve it, business management is meaningless.
Tadashi Yanai is still a family man. He is married and a father of two children. The firstborn, Kazumi, is the director of Fast Retailing and leader of Uniqlo's American division. It is not clear, however, that he will be his successor at the helm of the company. In a recent interview with CNN, Tadashi Yanai expressed his desire for a woman to take the helm when the time comes for his retirement: "Women leaders are often more talented people. They are more prepared to run textile businesses and I look forward to seeing more women in leadership positions in the business world.
Yanai awaits a step next door in his home on the outskirts of Tokyo, a construction of more than 1,540 square meters worth 45 million euros. It also owns two golf courses in Hawaii, a sport he is fond of. He wears clothes of his brand and seems to have forgotten the laziness with which he began working, all those years ago. In 2016, he confessed: "I'm quite old. My life is running out, and before I die I have to do something"