Meet Tadashi Yanai, the richest person in Japan, worth an estimated US$31.9 billion – and more than US$6 billion richer than the second-richest person in Japan, Takemitsu Takizaki, according to Bloomberg. The 71-year-old’s fortune largely comes from his position as chairman, CEO and biggest shareholder (he owns 45 per cent) of Fast Retailing, the parent company of Uniqlo. So, how did he get there, and more importantly, what does he like to spend all that money on? Behind the brands: the 11 richest people in fashion revealed Fast Retailing is bigger than you think Fast Retailing isn’t just the parent company of Uniqlo – it also owns several other brands, including Theory, Comptoir des Cotonniers and J Brand. Still, Uniqlo remains the most successful brand in his portfolio. Yanai opened his first Uniqlo shop in 1984 and has since expanded the brand to almost 2,000 stores in more than 20 countries. Parent company Fast Retailing has a reported annual revenue of about US$20.8 billion as of August 2019. Yanai was an influential member on the board of the Japanese holding company SoftBank for 18 years Yanai once had a reputation for being one of the few people with as much influence as SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son – but in December 2019, SoftBank announced that Yanai would be resigning from the board to focus on his fashion business. The 12 richest tech billionaires in the world – ranked Yanai was the son of a clothing seller but wasn’t motivated to work hard in the early days Yanai’s father owned a men’s clothing shop called Men’s Shop Ogori Shoji. The store was in fact on the first floor and the family lived above it. By the 1970s, the business had several locations. Meanwhile, Yanai was busy studying economics and politics at Waseda University. After graduating from college in 1971, he started selling men’s clothing and kitchenware at a Jusco supermarket, but decided to quit after a year to begin working for his father instead. “My preference was not to work my entire life, that’s how I was,” he once told ABS-CBN. “My father demanded that I needed to find work at Jusco. So regretfully, I got a job.” He said he later joined his father’s business because he had nowhere else to go, but he actually ended up finding it fun. Meet Tadashi Yanai, billionaire founder of Uniqlo In 1984 in Hiroshima, Yanai founded ‘Unique Clothing Warehouse’ which, you guessed it, is where the name Uniqlo came from A few years later, he changed the name of his father’s clothing company to Fast Retailing. The company grew quickly in the following years, and by 1996, Yanai had more than 200 stores across Japan. Uniqlo’s US$15 fleece jacket was the brand’s most popular product, with an estimated one in four Japanese people having bought one by 1998. The Japanese billionaire, who is married with two children, lives in a 16,586 square feet house in the woodlands outside Tokyo The property, which includes a guard house, a driving range, and a separate thatched-roof teahouse, was estimated to be worth about US$50 million in 2017. Yanai bought the land in an auction for US$78 million back in 2001. Yanai has a second home – worth an estimated US$74 million – in the ritzy Shibuya neighbourhood of Tokyo, meaning he rubs shoulders with government officials and CEOs who also live nearby. Who is He Xiaopeng, the billionaire CEO behind China’s Tesla-killer Xpeng? The billionaire is reportedly an avid golf player Yanai bought the Plantation Golf Course in Hawaii from Maui Land & Pineapple for US$50 million in 2009, according to Bloomberg. In 2010, he bought another course, Kapalua Bay, for US$24.1 million and reportedly visits them for two weeks every summer without fail. According to Financial Times , Yanai likes to begin work at 7am and be home by 4pm so he can play some golf and spend time with his wife – and his company has adapted its entire schedule to the chairman’s early hours. Between 2013 and 2018, the expansion of Yanai’s company meant that his net worth jumped from US$15.5 billion to US$24 billion in just five years Fast Retailing is now the third-largest clothing retailer in the world after H&M and Inditex, the parent company of Zara, according to MoneyWeek . The company operates more than 2,100 Uniqlo stores in at least 24 countries – and that’s not counting the group’s other brands. Uniqlo has around 810 stores in Japan but only 50 in the US. The vast majority are scattered throughout Asian countries including China, Hong Kong and South Korea. Uniqlo’s success is thanks to its reputation for selling relatively affordable, timeless basics everyone can wear As Gillian B. White noted in The Atlantic , “Uniqlo isn’t in the business of chasing trends”. The brands staples, she added, “versatile black pants, reliable oxfords, crisp cotton socks – are available month after month, year after year”. Yanai himself explained to Vault Magazine in 2011 that Uniqlo’s clothes were “geared to all types of people: whether they are billionaires, the middle class, the lower end. We need to cater to all, just like Marks and Spencer or Gap or the current H&M and Zara do. Unless we cater to all segments of life and segments of people, we cannot be successful.” How SF Express founder Wang Wei went from delivery man to billionaire Yanai has made it clear he wants Fast Retailing to be the world’s largest clothing retailer Yanai has always named H&M and Zara as Fast Retailing’s biggest rivals. Continuing its global expansion, Uniqlo opened its first stores in Denmark, Italy, India, and Vietnam in 2019. He told Forbes Asia that his goal was to have the company’s revenue reach US$29 billion by 2020, something that may of course not now happen thanks to the global pandemic. However he’s unlikely to be too deterred: “Information and digital innovation will determine the winner,” Yanai said. “And that’s the area we are in.” Uniqlo has pioneered the use of artificial intelligence in its stores that ‘read people’s brains’ to help them find clothes they will like View this post on Instagram ⋆ 昨日はGU SHOES LABのイベントへ ⋆ すごく良かったのが、3D足型計測器を使ってプロのシューフィッターの方にサイズや特徴をみてもらってアドバイスを頂けたこと。 思い込んでいた足と結果は違っていて、今後の靴選びの参考になりました!! ⋆ 新作マシュマロパンプスはサイズ展開が豊富になり、爪先や踵にもクッションがあって足にフィット。 店内にある砂利道や坂道を試着して歩いてみたけど、痛くないしパカパカ脱げそうになったりもしなかった。 おまけに撥水加工や抗菌防臭まで︎ ⋆ 8月12日までGU STYLE STUDIO原宿店で同じ体験ができる上、先着で新作マシュマロパンプスが貰えちゃうのでぜひ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ #マシュマロパンプス #gushoeslab #gu #ジーユー #gumania #gu_for_all #gustylestudio #プチプラコーデ #大人カジュアル #locari #mineby3mootd #chao_app #partegram #骨格診断ストレート #パーソナルカラーオータム #40代コーデ A post shared by (@0510_nana) on Aug 9, 2019 at 6:21am PDT “Select stores have AI-powered UMood kiosks that show customers a variety of products, then measures their reaction to the colour and style through neurotransmitters,” according to Blake Morgan in Forbes. “Based on each person’s reaction, the kiosk then recommends products. Customers don’t even have to push a button; their brain signals are enough for the system to know how they feel about each item,” he explains. And in 2018, Uniqlo launched GU Style Studio stores – a series of fitting-only stores where customers can try on clothing and place orders online for later delivery, according to the Japan Times. Yanai’s two sons are both on Fast Retailing’s board of directors “This means that corporate governance will function even when I’m absent,” Yanai said when he announced their promotions in October 2018. “It does not mean that they will take charge of the company.” Yanai’s sons, Kazumi Yanai and Koji Yanai, were both senior vice presidents at Fast Retailing before being promoted to the board, according to Nikkei Asian Review . In 2017, Yanai announced that he would step down as president of Fast Retailing when he turned 70 – but he’s 71 and still hasn’t Yanai turned 71 in February 2020 and so far has made no official announcement about leaving his role as president or about who will take his place, although he did recently tell Bloomberg Japan that his CEO role is “more suitable for a woman” because women “are persevering, detail-oriented and have an aesthetic sense”. Uniqlo Japan’s female CEO, Maki Akaida, has been tapped as a potential successor to Yanai, Forbes recently reported. Covid-19 made Jeff Bezos twice as rich as space rival Elon Musk The coronavirus pandemic has hit Fast Retailing hard – but sales have started to recover in some key markets In July, Fast Retailing predicted that its operating profit would be 50 per cent lower and sales would be 13 per cent lower from the year before due to the coronavirus crisis, Reuters reported. The company’s CFO, Takeshi Okaza, told reporters earlier this year that the group had seen “a large decline in both revenue and profit across the business.” But the company also said that sales were recovering faster than expected in Japan and China, two of its most important markets. This article originally appeared in Business Insider Want more stories like this? Sign up here . Follow STYLE on Facebook , Instagram , YouTube and Twitter .