Last week, my friend posted a link on Facebook leading to a website for a UCLA clothing retailer based in London. I figured it would be a great way to start talking about global issues again on this blog, considering that most of my posts have been dealing with my random adventures lately. What really piqued my interest with this website was that it also reminded me of visiting the UCLA Store in one of Shanghai’s malls while studying abroad. The store was stocked with various types of clothing, including polos and fancy dress shirts, that you wouldn’t have guessed had anything to do with UCLA unless you checked the tag first. Though we all recognized the UCLA name, in this store, it was a brand with its own kind of associated lifestyle that we (or at least I) didn’t connect to the campus I knew. It was both strange and familiar.
But that strangeness is what makes this case pretty interesting. UCLA has developed itself as a brand not just in China, but in other countries such as South Korea, the United Kingdom, and even Kuwait. According to a 2011 Daily Bruin article, the license director of UCLA Trademarks and Licensing, Cindy Holmes, connected this wave of UCLA overseas branding back to Japanese interest in the campus culture in the 1980s. From there, licensing rights were opened up to other parts of the world.
Based on where the stores are located, the type of clothing varies as well. The polos and dress shirts in the stores in China are meant to be directed at more professional males and businessmen while the attire sold on the London website is marketed towards college-age youth. According to the Daily Bruin article, South Korean UCLA stores produce clothing for children and young adults. I’m not quite sure what the stores in Kuwait or India sell, but they are owned by the same group that sells in London, Ideal Europe Ltd, so I assume that they would have similar styles.
Here’s an interesting quote from a different Daily Bruin article summarizing pretty well the thought behind Ideal Europe’s marketing:
“International customers are more interested in the brand of UCLA as a highly respected educational institution and as a symbol of the Southern Californian lifestyle, and the style of clothing sold reflects this distinction, Holmes added. Garments have less of an athletic feel and are have more of a casual campus style.”
There seems to be a lot of people around the world who want to achieve that “Southern Californian lifestyle” and the UCLA brand is one of the ways that those people can reflect that in what they wear. Apparently, the Middle East is still a hot spot for future stores, but who knows where the next UCLA store will pop up and what new style changes will come with it.