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I want to live a Muji life

Actually I first encountered Muji in New York. A creative director at the ad agency I worked at was hoarding Muji notebooks that he bought in London. Being a fan of a minimalist aesthetic, Muji suited me perfectly. But while I love spare design, I am not one of those minimalists that would choose design over functionality. And this is what impressed me most about Muji products…they are smart, really smart. Not only clean and spare in design, but designed for use…for real life…for me and you. Products are stripped bare of unnecessary bells and gratuitous whistles to focus on the pure design and in use experience of each individual element. When we had the opportunity to visit the flagship store in Tokyo in Shinjuku featuring its 7,000+ products…we were in Muji heaven.

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If you are not familiar with Muji you may be wondering what I am talking about.  Muji is something like Ikea meets Container Store meets Dean & Deluca meets Crate & Barrel. Now that I think about it, it is actually kind of hard to describe. Muji sells everything from minimalist street clothing to yoga clothing to kitchen wares to home storage to ready-to-eat meals to stationery to sheets / towels to children’s clothing / toys to furniture to bicycles. The unifying element between all of the items being their trademark design philosophy of practical minimalism. In fact those obsessed with this design aesthetic have referred to Muji as “minimalist-porn.

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Muji’s original product range, launched in 1980, used the tagline “lower priced for a reason” and was designed to offer inexpensive, but good quality products. Items were wrapped simply in clear cellophane and plain brown paper labels with red writing. Lower prices were facilitated by letting no item go to waste – for example,  Muji sold U-shaped pasta, which was the left-over part that is cut off in the manufacturing process to make spaghetti. Muji’s “no-brand” strategy means they do no advertising, sell no name-brand (only their own items) and rely on word of mouth.

In the Muji meccas of Tokyo we must have spent a good 4-5 hours over the course of our 2 week visit – shopping and visiting our favourite items at Muji…coveting things we wanted, but couldn’t possibly bring home. I had a devastating crush on the 50’s roadster style electric bicycle.

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While Paul’s dreams were a little larger…he wanted the Muji house. Yes, if you own a plot of land, Muji will build and outfit a home in complete Muji style.

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Instead, we left with a bag of the aforementioned notebooks, some cool sneakers, a great tote bag for travelling (and carrying all of our Muji home) and an assortment of office and bath accessories.

Today there are 3 locations in NYC with one mini Muji at JFK airport. They are littered throughout Europe with my first love and original favorite being in London – but you can also find in Paris, Rome and Istanbul. If you are coming through Asia, they abound in cities like Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok, Shanghai and Beijing and of course throughout Japan. If you are a Muji-o-phile, or just want to see what all the fuss is about, then the Shinjuku flagship store is a must visit when in Tokyo. Also really nice is an impressively large 6-floor Muji in Kichijoji – in fact this is really my favorite location because it is much less overrun than the high-traffic Shinjuku location.

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Global Muji

USA Muji – with online store (bring Muji to your doorstep!)

Pictures, except where otherwise linked are from Muji webpage

:)

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