An Hour with John C Jay —

The Business Side of the Creative Coin


When creatives look at commerce, there’s typically a justified sense of tension between the artistic and the business side. But how does someone from the commercial world see the creative relationship? We sat down for an hour with John C Jay, President of Global Creative at Fast Retailing, UNIQLO’s parent company. As a unique bridge between commerce, culture, and creativity, he enlightened us on the mutually beneficial connection between the three as well as shared some words about his own creative initiative launching in Portland. 

The view from John C Jay’s office at UNIQLO’s global headquarters in Ariake, near Tokyo Bay.

“I’ve never been an artist. Never. […] In terms of mixing art, commerce, and creativity, that was just natural. I mean, you can’t have the commerce without the creativity.”

Pieces of art from John’s prized collection from around the world.

“This [Bloomingdale’s] was my grad school. Going to Paris, going to the Prêt–à–Porter, going to all the design museums all over the world. That came through commerce. That came through working with successful businesses that allowed me to educate myself and to help spread that inspiration.”

“I’m not out to help everyone. I can’t afford to do that. […] I want to engage with people who interest me, who I can learn from, who will teach me new things and take me to new places.”

“Imagine how boring we’d all be if we shut that gate behind us and just stayed at that. If we don’t grow, we don’t progress. Then you’re not utilizing everything that we have in our in our brain and in our soul.”

“I certainly can’t take credit for this. So let’s say I was a contributor to it, and that is to be immersed in the culture and […] to advance culture and contribute back to culture rather than just stealing from it.”

David Kenji Chang talks with the founder in his LA studio and new shop to talk about his life’s work and staying weird in a weird world.