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Upcycling and ‘it bags’: how Uniqlo’s British boss aims to make it bigger in Britain

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Aged just 34, Alessandro Dudech has grown up at Uniqlo, where he started as a graduate trainee and is now charged with making the Japanese clothing retailer a British household name.The Italian only took on the position as head of Uniqlo’s UK business a year ago, just as the pandemic began to ease, but has already opened three stores – including London outlets in Battersea and Regent Street – and is keen to keep up the pace.

The pandemic also raised the profile of Uniqlo online, driving demand for home deliveries and sign-ups to its app.“My dream is to make Uniqlo part of British infrastructure,” says Dudech, who started out in retail 14 years ago, working as a “model” in a branch of Abercrombie & Fitch in Italy.Uniqlo has said it wants to open 30 more outlets a year across Europe – a big leap from its current 67 – and the UK, where there are currently 17 branches, will have a part to play in that ambition.Dudech’s aim is to capitalise on a fashion moment for the Japanese brand, which has clocked up a string of viral products.

One star item has been the banana-shaped “round mini”, which has become Uniqlo’s bestselling bag of all time. Lauded online as “the Mary Poppins carryall”, it has sold out seven times in the past 18 months, according to the company.Other hits have included its pleated wide-leg work trousers, which cost just under £35, and a sleeveless T-shirt with integrated bra.

Sales of the group’s HeatTech thermal undergarments also boomed over the winter, when the UK sought ways to stay warm in the cost of living crisis without putting the heating on. “We reached record heights in terms of demand,” says Dudech.Uniqlo has not used celebrities or paid influencers to endorse these bestsellers – their popularity

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