Seemingly out of nowhere, their cheap, skinny rainbow-colored basics became a kind of New York uniform. Just how did the Japanese discount brand become the hottest retailer in the city?

There are 950 Uniqlo stores worldwide, and all but 136 are located in Japan, where Uniqlo has had a retail presence since the eighties. But over the last five years, the company has been opening new stores in cities like London, Paris, and Moscow every few months. (Shanghai’s Uniqlo opens this week.) Since the recession, most global apparel companies have posted stagnant sales figures (or worse), but Uniqlo’s low-cost basics have allowed its parent company, Fast Retailing, to announce astounding numbers. In 2009, during one of the worst periods in the history of retailing, Uniqlo reported over $7 billion in sales of more than 400 million items. Existing-store sales were up by more than 30 percent. – from NYMag