Carefully stacked notebooks, raw wood furnishings and a clean palette of white, beige and navy — MUJI is every minimalist’s dream. With the scent of yuzu, lemongrass and lavender wafting through the air, every inch of the store lives up to the minimalist aesthetics. In a culture that promotes hyper consumerism, MUJI, a brand that promotes utility and plainness, feels oddly refreshing.
Having grown up in Hong Kong, MUJI isn’t anything new to me. I grew up with their stationery and had my very own collection years before the craze hit North America, so it was fascinating to witness how hotly anticipated the launch was in Vancouver in 2017. Online media outlets counted down to the day it opened and customers lined up for hours just to get their hands on those seemingly plain products. MUJI started with just 9 household items and 31 food products. Today, they are a global lifestyle brand with over 800 stores worldwide and 6,500 items ranging from garments to furnitures. So how exactly did MUJI, a brand with no logo, advertising or spokesperson, grow into a retail giant with such a massive cult following? Let’s find out.
MUJI’s full name is Mujirushi Ryohin (無印良品), which stands for ‘no label quality goods’. Built on a philosophy of anonymity and functionality, the brand was founded in 1980 when the Japanese market was being flooded with foreign luxury brands due to its rapidly growing economy. The founders identified a gap in the market for affordable and quality goods and carved out a niche for themselves as a “brandless” brand. While they aim to make their products generic as as possible, MUJI’s design is definitely recognizable — (ironically) plain, but just special enough.
While staying true to their philosophy, MUJI continues to evolve as a business by expanding product lines and uncovering new opportunities including cafes, concept stores and even hotels. The company has managed to strike a sweet balance between growth and authenticity, and their success largely stems from their ability to consistently incorporate core values to not only their products but all aspects of their operation.
MUJI is more than a design philosophy, they represent a lifestyle of minimalism and simplicity that is becoming more recognized and appreciated globally. They create a seamless shopping experience with a cozy ambiance that their consumers crave for and can resonate with on an emotional level. Since the minimalist lifestyle is so deeply embedded throughout MUJI’s identity, by associating themselves with the retail chain, consumers believe that they are one step closer to becoming more like the people they identify as, or want to be.
As a lifestyle brand, MUJI is not just selling products, it’s more about an experience and a way of life. What gives MUJI an edge is their ability to foster a sense of community built on shared values, and this is exactly what every brand should strive to deliver.