Behind every great collaboration, be it music or fashion, are powerful creatives. Sometimes, it takes the effort of hundreds working behind-the-scenes to put it all together. But if not for passionate leaders laying the groundwork, what good is manpower alone?
In the case of Uniqlo and Disney’s “Magic For All” partnership, the power duo behind it all are none other than John C Jay and Allen Au-Yeung.
Creatively-driven John C Jay is no stranger to the industry, having helmed American advertising agency Wieden + Kennedy’s projects (Nike USA and Asia, Coca-Cola, Microsoft) in his earlier years. An influential figure in the industry, John is now Fast Retailing’s President of Global Creative.
Allen Au-Yeung, on the other hand, is Disney China’s Head of Creative, with a flair for bringing Disney characters and stories to life via product. The dapper Disney genius, who joined the company about 10 years ago, led a team of other Disney creatives into making dreams come true via “Magic For All”.
We got to pick their brains during a group interview prior to the Uniqlo x Disney “Magic For All” launch at Uniqlo’s largest global flagship store in Shanghai. Here’s what went down:
You’re the designers behind the Uniqlo x Disney “Magic For All” collection. What can or can’t you do with Mickey? Are there any limitations?
Allen Au-Yeung: (laughs) We all know Mickey, I mean, Mickey is the most important and iconic character and Mickey can be anywhere, anytime so to me, Mickey is the most flexible character. As such, we don’t have any limitations when it comes to Mickey. Of course, we can’t have Mickey doing the bad stuff!
John C Jay: He can manifest himself as a shadow, and that shadow has a life of its own..
Allen Au-Yeung: And Mickey is so iconic that he can be recognised with just 3 circles. So if you ask me, Mickey can be anything.
Who has the final say before designs can be finalised? Would it be Disney or Uniqlo?
Allen Au-Yeung: We both collaborate together..of course, Uniqlo has respect for the way we work and also, Disney has the say for our characters and stories, but we always talk to each other. Whenever we start on a design, we always have an initial discussion on how we should do it.
John C Jay: I think what we both can be sure about is that we come from very much the same place and that’s why the “Magic For All” was such an instant..you know we agreed to that theme immediately because it just spoke to both of our brands so deeply. It was an easy collaboration in the sense of understanding and trust. The agreement didn’t start until about a year ago and for this much work to be done within a year..it shows the level of trust.
You guys have some really great designs out there! What was the approval process like for each design? Because there are so many..
Allen Au-Yeung: Everytime we think of something, we would discuss them initially. So what happens is, “Yes?” or “No?”, then we will create a design and every single piece of product, in Disney, we actually have dedicated..what we call the product development people..to really look at them. Then we go, “Yes, Okay!”
John C Jay: And what’s really great about this is..we want to protect Mickey. We want to make sure we protect Mickey’s values and integrity so we trust that process very much. It’s not about, “Oh, we don’t have enough freedom”, no. That’s why we’re good at the collaboration, it’s because we really trust their intuition on what makes Mickey real and what makes Mickey so valuable.
What’s the difference between the Uniqlo x Disney “Magic For All” items and the Disney park merchandise? Will there be any confusion in the long run?
Allen Au-Yeung: The experience that you’ll get from the theme park is different from what you will get here. Of course, in the end, we’ll still have the Disney experience but the theme park would have a lot more of the Disney experience – from the candy store to the emporium, and the kinds of shows that you can attend. So we’ve tried to take some of that and apply it here, but very subtle. Also, anything that we’ve created for the park is exclusive to the park. And anything that we’ve created with Uniqlo is exclusive to Uniqlo.
What were some of the challenges that you faced while executing the collaboration?
John C Jay: What sort of challenges..wow, that’s such a big question.
Allen Au-Yeung: There were a lot of challenges but I would say that the challenges weren’t very difficult to overcome because we only talked about this a year ago but look at the things that we have. We’re very excited about what we can do better so we challenge ourselves to make it better. So if you ask me, the challenges are always there..
John C Jay: I think the challenges were..aside from deciding on what to do, is how do we make it better? This is Lifewear, this is a very important extension of Lifewear. It has taken us 20 years..I’ve been here only since January, but every month I’m still trying to still distill in down and make it sharper and sharper, and sharper. Lifewear is constantly being improved – even the most simple basic thing is going to be improved. Lighter, warmer, cheaper. Collectively, what we’re trying to do from Uniqlo’s perspective is provide the highest possible quality for the greatest number of people. What Disney helped us with is add an emotional part of that to the idea so “Magic for All” is another expression of highest possible quality for the greatest number of people.
The Uniqlo x Disney #MagicForAll collaboration* has been made available in phases starting Monday (28th September) at a Uniqlo outlet near you!
*Availability of “Magic For All” items will vary from store to store with the large stores (One Utama, Midvalley Megamall, Fahrenheit 88, and IOI City Mall) carrying the most variety.