Words | Leon Goh
All Images, Thank you | Eugenia Lim, MUJI
Here in Australia, there’s been a kind of ‘at arms length’ admiration for MUJI and their approach to product design and retail. Founded over thirty years ago and originally titled Mujirushi (no brand) Ryonin (quality goods), the company’s core philosophy is about enhancing everyday lives with products that have embedded design intent yet remain entirely accessible and usable. Creating objects with a limited colour palette and minimal packaging, MUJI has a range of over 5800 products. Some of their most famous products include a CD player designed by Naoto Fukusawa, dining chairs by Jasper Morrison, a selection of furniture by Enzo Mari and the MUJI Labo clothing range designed by Yohji Yamamoto.
Over thirty years ago, MUJI began as an offshoot of the Seiyu department store but soon created its own retail network three years later – its first international store would open in London in 1991. MUJI eschews the usual hallmarks of corporate branding by limiting the use of their logo on their products while actively encouraging collaboration both within and outside of the company as a means to drive design and product innovation. In the MUJI company philosophy, the collective is privileged over the individual. Through its wholehearted focus on the brand and product, MUJI shifts the limelight away from the individual design “author”, reinforcing the collective effort required to bring its products to fruition. I’m hesitant to describe MUJI as a “lifestyle brand” because of the modern day PR-type connotations that this implies; but the company’s ability to touch multiple layers of everyday life – from homewares, clothing, stationary, food, transport and even housing – deserves to be venerated.
More recently in 2011, MUJI’s drive for innovative projects continued. Extending on the notion of kanketsu – the concept of simplicity to bring a sense of calm to strenuous everyday lives – MUJI recently began searching the globe for various unbranded low cost and handcrafted objects. Speaking with MUJI’s press office in Japan, I asked whether this project was driven by long time collaborators like Fukusawa-san and also whether this project was viewed as an important one internally within the company? “There were many people involved in the Found MUJI project, though the real main drivers of the project were internal MUJI staff.” A typically subtle and nuanced answer from this Japanese mainstay – always focused on the collective, never the individual.
Read the full article by Leon Goh here, on Assemble Papers online.