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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

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Breaking with convention: Uniqlo "steteco bartenders" Sokichi Hotta (left) and Itaru Nakamaniwa show and wear brightly colored "suteteko" underwear at the company's flagship store in Ginza, Tokyo, on Monday. YOSHIAKI MIURA

Uniqlo splashes out 'suteteko' as summer wear


Staff writer

Uniqlo has opened a special counter for traditional "suteteko" underwear at its flagship in Ginza, Tokyo, with a lineup of more than 80 designs and colors intended to keep people cool this summer when electricity shortages may keep air conditioning in short supply.

Calling it the "Steteco Bar," the apparel giant will run the counter until mid-July on the store's 10th floor with special advisers called "steteco bartenders." They give customers advice on how to wear and how to coordinate the underwear — which can also be worn as outerwear — with other clothing to fend off summer humidity.

While traditional suteteko are made of cotton, some of Uniqlo's designs are made of mesh or polyester so perspiration can dry quickly. Wearing the underwear allows the wearer to stay cool without feeling sweaty trousers, spokeswoman Naoe Tsunashima said Monday.

The project reflects a recent fashion trend to revive the traditional long and thin underwear favored by older people and apply it in a wide variety of ways, even wearing them as casual pants.

To attract younger shoppers, Uniqlo's versions include prints featuring the likes of Superman and characters from the popular "One Piece" manga.

Uniqlo plans to sell them in 11 countries and regions, including the United States, Britain, France and China, Tsunashima said.

"We want to let overseas customers understand the convenience and the easiness of wearing steteco," Tsunashima said. "Many tourists visit Ginza from abroad, so it means a lot to open the counter here at this outlet to let them know about steteco."

The outlet has concierges on the first floor who speak a range of languages from English to Chinese to French who can translate for the steteco advisers, she added.

Uniqlo will lower the price for each item to ¥790 from the current ¥990 until Friday. The firm did not disclose a sales target.

It is considering selling the underwear designed specifically for female customers, Tsunashima said.




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