On April 26, UNIQLO and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA Boston) renewed their long-standing partnership with a new UT collection of T-shirts featuring the works of ukiyo-e artists Hokusai, Kuniyoshi, and Hiroshige. The collaboration between the Japanese brand and the museum stretches back 10 years, and this round, also sees UNIQLO supporting museum-wide Japanese programming, including Junior Artists, which provides children’s art education.
The partnership emerges from UNIQLO’s ongoing and active alignment with the museum space in a bid to establish itself as a cultural force. As its creative director NIGO once put it, “UT is not selling T-shirts; it is selling a culture.” Along the way, UNIQLO has formed partnerships with institutions such as the Hawai’i State Art Museum and the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, while maintaining ongoing connections with a number of key institutions.
Who are UNIQLO’s other current museum partners?
The Louvre: The four-year partnership, established in 2021, includes UNIQLO sponsoring Mini-Discovery Tours of the museum and a UT collection for Spring/Summer 2022, featuring a collaboration with Japanese contemporary artist Yu Nagaba.
The Museum of Modern Art: The partnership, which began in 2013, was recently renewed. In addition to a UT collection featuring Van Gogh and Monet works, the collaboration includes programming such as UNIQLO Free Friday Nights at the museum for New York residents and UNIQLO ArtSpeaks virtual talks that offer online art education.
Tate Modern: After an initial 2016 partnership centered on UNIQLO Tate Lates, UNIQLO announced a new three-year collaboration with Tate Modern set to include a series of family-friendly programming under the UNIQLO Tate Play banner (anchored by a free-drawing activation in the museum’s Turbine Hall) and a UT line.
Museum of Contemporary Art of Barcelona: Began in 2018 and recently extended to 2025, the partnership includes free museum entry every Saturday afternoon, courtesy of UNIQLO.
Why it matters
A collaboration with the Japanese global retail giant for museums and artists means access to global consumers — some of which might have low awareness of the museum space — leveraging an increasingly lucrative cultural licensing market. In Japan and mainland China alone, UNIQLO operates approximately 1,600 stores total, and globally, the company reported $2.4 billion in total profit in 2021. Meanwhile, the market for cultural IP licensing is projected to reach $338.7 billion by 2027.
Simultaneously, through its decade-plus history of collaborations, UNIQLO continues to cement its association with cultural institutions and the arts, ensuring its brand resonates across borders and remains relevant with cultural consumers. Also key: it differentiates the brand from other similarly-priced fast fashion competitors. It’s a beneficial situation for both parties that even more broadly, closes the gap between the fashion and cultural realms.
What they said
“Our continued partnership with UNIQLO supports the MFA’s mission of bringing art and culture into everyday life and increases access to the MFA’s renowned collection of ukiyo-e prints. We are thrilled that a broader audience can experience and enjoy art through fashion.” — Debra LaKind, Senior Director of Intellectual Property and Business Development, MFA Boston
“We are proud to continue our partnership with the MFA with this exciting UT collection, bringing the museum’s renowned holdings of Japanese art to life through the canvas of a T-shirt. The ukiyo-e collection reflects UNIQLO’s origins from Japan and our longstanding interest in the arts.” — Nick Grover, Director of Brand Partnerships, UNIQLO