The much-awaited Uniqlo South-east Asian flagship store, opening today at Orchard Central, is a bright spark amid a retail slump.
The presence of a new three-level store in Orchard Road is significant for shoppers, the local retail scene and Uniqlo itself, with Mr Taku Morikawa, chief executive of Uniqlo South-east Asia, pointing to Singapore as the centre of Asia.
"If we are successful here with the flagship, we can explore markets such as India and Vietnam,'' he said, adding that the store will hopefully make the Singapore retail scene "more competitive".
Dr Seshan Ramaswami, associate professor of marketing education at Singapore Management University, said the opening is "great news" for Orchard Central and all its tenants, and it would be even more noteworthy if an "absolutely new player to Singapore had moved in".
For Far East Organization, which owns and manages Orchard Central, Uniqlo adds vibrancy to the mall. Ms Mavis Seow, chief operating officer (retail business group) of Far East Organization, said the Japanese fashion label offers a "new shopping experience, fresh innovative designs and special collection".
She said: "Uniqlo anchors Orchard Central's appeal as a vibrant lifestyle retail and social hub for design-conscious shoppers looking for quality affordable merchandise and differentiated offerings."
The store's interiors are designed by local multi-disciplinary studio Anonymous and feature 286 digital displays, the largest number of screens in any Uniqlo store worldwide. The mammoth store occupies about 29,000 sq ft.
At last night's preview party, guests watched performances, including by beatboxer Dharni, inside the brightly-lit store.
A guest, local singer Tay Kewei, 33, said: "I came because I was very excited about how big it is. I've been to the Ginza flagship and I'm a fan of Uniqlo."
She likes the high ceilings of the Orchard Central store and its "outstanding" visual merchandising. Guests mingled among racks carrying the brand's full product range and an exclusive line of luxe cashmere apparel.
At UT, the store's dedicated T-shirt corner, shoppers can expect designs by American musician Pharrell Williams, and also a Singapore design showing Disney character Mickey Mouse with the Merlion.
Shopping will be a multi-sensory experience designed by local artists and musicians.
Uniqlo hopes to keep working with Singapore's creative community, among them Mr Jonathan Kiat, 40, of independent record label Syndicate. He engaged about a dozen local musicians, including Tim De Cotta and Jason Tan, to contribute original works to be played in-store.
Mr Kiat curated two separate playlists, for day and evening, with Syndicate co-founder Cherry Chan.
The kids section has an art display inspired by popular children's story The Little Prince, illustrated by Singapore-based visual artist Michael Ng.
Other home-grown illustrators have designed exclusive canvas tote bags and shopping bags, including art collective Tell Your Children, whose artists were illustrating paper fans at the preview party.
Uniqlo is owned by Fast Retailing, a Japanese company that also owns other brands like Theory and Helmut Lang. The company reported $18.95 billion in sales last year.
Uniqlo has set up 25 stores in Singapore since arriving eight years ago. Worldwide, it has more than 1,700 stores.