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YKK, the Japanese zipper behemoth, makes roughly half of all the zippers on earth.

STEVE MCALLAN 2016-12-13


More than 7 billion zippers each year. Founded by Tadao Yoshida in Tokyo in 1934, YKK stands for Yoshida Kogyo Kabushikikaisha
(which roughly translates as Yoshida Company Limited). The young Yoshida was a tinkerer who designed his own customized zipper machines when he wasn’t satisfied with existing production methods. 

One by one, Yoshida brought basically every stage of the zipper making process in house. It still manufactures its own zipper-manufacturing machines—which it carefully hides from the eyes of competitors. With every tiny detail handled under YKK’s roof, outside variables get eliminated and the company can assure consistent quality and speed of production. (When the Japanese earthquake hit in 2011 many supply chains were shredded, but YKK kept rolling along.)

Yoshida also preached a management principle he termed “The Cycle of Goodness.” It holds that “no one prospers unless he renders benefit to others.” In practice, this boiled down to Yoshida 

striving to produce ever-higher quality with ever-lower costs. It seems intuitive, but it’s far from easy to do. And in the end, the secret to YKK’s success is equally uncomplicated but equally impressive: 


YKK makes incredibly dependable zippers, ships them on time without fail, offers a wide range of colors, materials, and styles, and never gets badly undercut on price. The feeling in the apparel industry is that you can’t go wrong with YKK.

“A zipper will never make a garment,” “But it can break a garment.”


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