We hear a lot about corporate social enterprise and microfinance these days, but have you ever heard of a project that combines the two?
Tomorrow, July 5th, marks the launch of the first two physical Grameen UNIQLO stores in Dhaka, Bangladesh. This isn’t UNIQLO headquarters opening some new branches in a third-world country to sell overpriced clothes to the top 1%. No, this enterprise has a different mission. From their website:
“Grameen UNIQLO’s objective is to address issues related to poverty, public sanitation, education, gender issues and the environment, by establishing a sustainable, community-level business cycle. Local involvement in the design, production and sale of clothing provides jobs, while helping to develop the economy and improve the quality of life in the country.”
While we have to wait until tomorrow to see if the public likes it, Grameen UNIQLO’s website seems to cater directly to their target market. The online models are all fashionable and good-looking young Bangladeshis, and the women’s clothing is a modern version of the salwaar kameez, a long blouse covering ankle-length trousers. The real question is, are these products priced for the average Bengali or will young women carrying UNIQLO bags become just another signal of growing inequality?
It may take a while to find out the real effects of an enterprise like this, but in the meantime, if you are in Dhaka in the next few weeks, check it out and let us know what you think!
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