Sunday 26 September 2010

MUJI in Berlin

MUJI is a Japanese brand that makes no-label, quality goods with minimalistic, no-fuss aesthetics. And, along with COS, it was one the stores I was happy to discover during my Berlin trip last spring. As you can see from both the website and the actual store, MUJI doesn't just sell wares, it sells a complete way of life. From clothes and stationary supplies to kitchen utensils and furniture. A very minimalistic but not austere way of life. I think that if I could shop from one store for the rest of my life, that would be it.

Their philosophy is totally worth a mention:
Cleaning of every nook and cranny - this is the foundation of comfort in traditional Japanese homes and gardens. No matter how luxurious, an environment that is not clean is not comfortable. Simple surroundings - whether home or garden - that are cleaned spic and span, on the other hand, are pleasant and beautiful. We dust the selves and the wooden frames of the sliding doors, we carefully sweep the floor. We remove our shoes to go inside, so naturally the home stays clean. We put away out things and our bedding when we don't need them. Minimalist rather than showy is the thought to be more pleasant: a simply and sparsely furnished living room has long been considered preferable.

MUJI was established thirty years ago, in 1980, with the idea of completely eliminating wastefulness. At that time, Japan enjoyed a prosperous economy, and expensive international brands were all the rage, while at the other end of the spectrum, cheap, inferior products hit the market. The MUJI concept was born as a criticism of this state of affairs - a fresh look at quality and price of truly useful quality goods with a no-label philosophy.

It all started with careful selection of materials, streamlined processes and simplified packaging. The concept of rationalizing products by totally eliminating wastefulness, and at the same time making them more attractive, is at the heart of traditional Japanese aesthetics. Since ancient times, the nature of core elements has been fundamental to the Japanese appreciation of beauty. Simplicity does not mean merely austerity; its appeal can be greater than that of luxury. And in an age when individuality and individual preference rule, eliminating precisely these qualities allows customers to find their own uses for products, giving free reign to individuality.

Last year we initiated an internal research program in our aim to provide even better quality goods. This laboratory, which we call the Quality Products of Everyday Life Research Center, is a space where we engage in dialogue with customers in MUJI stores and online to develop products and discover pleasant ways of living that make people around the world say
this will suffice.
So what did I get from MUJI in Berlin?

Kitchen stuff. Much less than I wanted to, due to scarce luggage space, but cute stuff nevertheless.

Minimalist white porcelain salt and pepper shakers.

Simple bamboo kitchen utensils.

And this.

Can't guess what it is?

It's an ice tray that makes diamond shaped ice cubes!
Not minimalist per se, but not wasteful either: It makes ice. I use ice. Lots of it. Makes sense, non?

I also fell in love with this watch below. Then I thought, I already have a watch. How many watches can a person wear at the same time, right?

Buying something you don't really need just because it's incredibly cute and well-designed is not a decision towards the right way after all this talk above. A decision I'm not always able to make, unfortunately. But in the case of the watch I did, so I passed.

Now, will somebody please open a MUJI shop in Greece?


daisychain said...

I love Muji (online) would loveee to visit a store!

ShoppingTherapy said...

i want an urban outfitters instead :P

battered couture said...

words fail me on the ice cubes. damn would they look good in dry martini.

PaperCrane said...

I love Muji, too! Their recycled yarn scarf is my favorite travel accessory.