Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Invasion of the Heat-Techies


At first glance, it looked like a sci-fi movie shoot: Smack in the middle of Military Island in New York’s Times Square, men in silver bodysuits wielded cameras that looked like the offspring of a hair dryer and a cop’s “radar gun.” 
One by one, New Yorkers in stocking caps, bulky down jackets and all sorts of cold weather gear stepped out of a long line to let one of the camera-happy silver-clad guys –  known as the Heat-Techies — scan their bodies for cold spots. The results popped up on a flat-screen color monitor.  
What on earth would be worth a long wait in the cold?  
Free high-tech clothes that lock in your body heat, that’s what!  
Yes, step right up, folks, in front of the Human Vending Machine — a silver booth with two oval windows and vending machine slots marked “men” and “women.” Behind each window, a man and a woman danced with robotic moves and dropped a box with a HEATTECH garment in the person’s size through the vending machine slot.  
Members of the New York Bicycle Messengers Association got an alert about the event and many of them showed up at 6 a.m. on Tuesday to get in line for the free clothes. The high-tech duds were given away as part of a guerrilla marketing campaign by Uniqlo, a Japanese retailer known for its inexpensive and colorful basic clothing like T-shirts, V-neck tops, turtleneck sweaters and camisoles. (The HEATTECH items start at $10.50 each in Uniqlo’s Soho store in New York.)  
“I’m out here in the weather, when it’s 20 degrees or colder, and so I decided, ‘Yeah, I’m going to get me some,’” said Anthony Rice, a New York bicycle messenger who’s known by his nickname, “Ninja.”  

In fact, bicycle messengers like “Ninja” and his friend “Julian,” whose given name is Jose Morales, were among those allowed to cut to the front of the line.  
“I was on 34th Street with my buddy when he told me about this, so I’m like ‘sure’ and rode on down with him,” Morales said. “I’m out in all kinds of weather.”  
Shin Odake, chief operating officer and acting CEO of Uniqlo USA, said the HEATTECH garments were designed jointly by his company, owned by Fast Retailing Co, and Toray, one of Japan’s leading manufacturers of chemicals, fibers and textiles.  
“There’s a special molecule that keeps your body heat contained in the fabric,” he told Reuters. “It’s tightly woven. If you sweat, it turns the moisture into body heat.” The high-tech blend of fibers includes milk proteins to moisturize the skin, he noted.  
Next stops for the Heat-Techies and their Human Vending Machine: London, Paris, Beijing and Seoul.  

(Photo: Reuters/Jan Paschal)