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Unlikely style icon who is avowedly anti-style: "Gone is the era when people strove wholeheartedly to enrich their material lives," says Tadashi Yanai, CEO of Uniqlo parent Fast Retailing. (Photo by Ken Kobayashi)
The Big Story

The man who clothes Asia: Uniqlo chief Tadashi Yanai

Japan's richest man on life, death and casual wear

SHIGESABURO OKUMURA, Nikkei Asia editor-in-chief and AKANE OKUTSU, Nikkei staff writer | Japan

TOKYO -- Tadashi Yanai turns up to the interview in his Uniqlo mask and a cardigan over a button-down shirt, striding into his Tokyo office meeting room. The wall is decorated with an intricate world map and a framed piece of Japanese calligraphy that reads: "world's number one."

Ranked as Japan's richest man by Forbes, Yanai could probably afford more expensive clothes than those he is wearing. But he has made his fortune as an evangelist for casual wear. Today, it is almost impossible to find anyone in his native country who has never shopped in Uniqlo.

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