Designing for UNIQLO’s New Edinburgh Store: How Chippendale Approaches Commissions

Tom Fraser, Principal of Chippendale School, was recently invited to participate in the marketing campaign for the grand opening of the much-anticipated UNIQLO Edinburgh Store. Joining fellow creatives from Edinburgh and The Lothians under the banner of ‘UNIQLO People,’ Tom may have caught your eye on banners around the city. As part of this exciting project, Tom and the School were entrusted with the task of creating bespoke furniture pieces for the store’s interior.

As a fan of UNIQLO, the project was a delight from start to finish and also offered the chance to educate our students on how to go about commissions; Where to start? How to manage expectations? Can I keep creative control?

In this blog, we reflect on Tom’s design process for the benches and provide valuable tips on navigating commissions.

Ask Questions!

The foundation of any successful commission work lies in listening to the client to truly understand their needs and expectations. Do not hold back on asking questions that will influence the design. Think about the intended location and frequency of use, as such considerations will help with determining the design of the piece and the materials that will be used.

When we met with UNIQLO, their brief was simple: create three benches for the new Edinburgh store. It quickly became evident that these benches would see frequent use, and so should, therefore, be highly durable. However, in line with the aesthetic of the new store, they also needed to have a modern design and seamlessly blend into the overall store’s look and feel – which you will soon be able to see!


This brings us to design. The question our students often ask is how they can bring their own style into commissioned pieces while at the same time meeting a client’s vision. Some clients (as experienced with Uniqlo), had a very simple brief allowing Tom to design as he best saw fit, others can be quite specific in what they are looking for. It is important to listen to the client and gauge their priorities, their likes and dislikes. Remember, they got in touch with you as they already love your work – so trust in your own vision.

Fortunately, on this project, Tom could exercise his creative vision. Inspired by the mid-century design movement, Tom opted for a minimalistic design with nods to Scandi style, perfectly aligned with Uniqlo’s timeless yet modern style.

Materials and Construction

When choosing materials, take into account the furniture’s surroundings and how the piece will interact with its environment. For materials, we opted for Walnut, Oak, and Cherry woods for the three benches, giving a contrast in colour, texture and overall aesthetic. These are three traditional furniture making hardwoods; however, the benches incorporate modern joinery methods which reflects the ethos of Chippendale School. The design is all about the interaction between the natural, oatmeal coloured Danish cord and each different species.

Communication is Key!

Our number one tip? Great listening and clear communication. Take the time to understand your client’s vision thoroughly and don’t hesitate to manage expectations openly. Try to avoid over-promising, as this can ultimately lead to disappointment. Ultimately this should be a project both you and the client are proud of!


A huge thank you to Uniqlo for asking us to be a part of the ‘UNIQLO People’ campaign. Head into the new store from 25th April to catch a glimpse of the benches created by Chippendale School!

Interested in learning more about fine furniture making as a career? Find out more about our 2024/25 Professional Course here, or check out our full range of courses here.

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