Entering a MUJI store without going out of it having bought at least an item is utterly impossible. What you buy does not matter – a notebook, a pen, a tea towel or a watch.
As soon as you step into this tidy one-coloured world everything shines with a different light and even the simplest, plainest every-day kitchenware turns unabashedly interesting.
It is no shopping-addiction matter here, but an ever-growing no-brand strategy which has led to unexpected outcomes in society and on the way people purchase nowadays.
Let us get a bit more into it starting from the beginning. Have you ever wondered what MUJI means? Even though it might sound manga-inspired, MUJI is actually the abbreviation of Mujirushi Ryōhin i.e. No Brands Quality Goods.
MUJI was in fact first conceived as a criticism towards the market generated from the economic boom of the 80’s where western expensive designer clothing came to be opposed to no brand low-quality clothing sold at cheaper prices.
MUJI’s philosophy is not based on the brand but on the quality and accessibility of its items. The focus is not on how it looks but on quality materials, a simple manufacture and plain transparent packaging highlighting the essence of the object itself and avoiding any wastes.
It is for its being so special in its simplicity that as an anti-brand MUJI grows faster and faster multiplying its outlets on a global basis without the need of any advertising or marketing campaign.
It is thanks to the customers who, happy with the experience, went back to MUJI and recommended it to their friends that MUJI’s notoriousness spread out even in an era still untouched by social networking.
In a world where the personal preferences and individuality are core to our daily life, the lack of any specific attribute or strong connection to a brand - like colourful packaging, stand-out logo or complex shape- turns the products into something more attached to the owner who can adapt them to one’s own taste allowing the individuality to cling to the item. Simple, as MUJI’s items are. All but boring or austere, MUJI’s simple is comfy, neat, easy and stress-free.
An original Japanese aesthetics as opposed to the openly daring western style. Far from the commonplace of the kimono and sake, MUJI has to Europeans an ultra-modern taste and, surprisingly but not as such, to Japanese people themselves. It is a harbour of peacefulness in a Country where colours, smells and noises mingle together at a strong pace which is sometimes difficult to keep.
A Culture with no borders that takes inspiration from universal needs. “It´s the same the whole world over” .
MUJI reaches out for the future but it is also bound to the roots of the Japanese culture like the almost obsessive tidiness of Japanese houses which is at the base of their special comfort.
You have to take your shoes off when you step in, beds are removed from the room when not in use and every piece of furniture –always basic and essential - is dusted more than once a day. Comfort is neatness more than luxury and what MUJI efficiently did is transferring the minimalist art of Japanese comfort onto the objects of the daily life stripping them of all frills.
In a study on the utility of goods lead by Quality Products of Every Day Life Research MUJI designers interact with the consumers to create, on the trace of their comments and feedback, items whose main characteristic is to be down to their essential, to be “enough” as they are. That is, enough to make you happy. The same interaction has been going on for 30 years now with fruitful results.
It might be interesting to know that the first MUJI store in Europe was in London, just beyond the Liberty in Carnaby Street or that in the past MUJI used to sell U-shaped spaghetti - basically production waste you get when folding the spaghetti to cut them straight. “Lower price for a reason” the label used to read. Also interesting, in 2005 MUJI launched the line called MUJI Lab designed by Yohi Yamamoto. Does that sound familiar? This collaboration was nonetheless kept on the low for the purpose of it was not advertising the products using a notorious name but merely improving the cut for a better fit and a consequent higher satisfaction on the customer’s end. That was it.
Today, the brand includes more than 5,800 items made for each and every aspect of daily life or special occasions. To ease and smooth this life yet a tiny bit more, Ipad apps are now available online.