Japan's No-Logo Empire
Muji brand is bringing its eco-friendly, reasonably priced, designer household products to the U.S. But don't look for a brand name
When Japan's Ryohin Keikaku Co. opens a 5,000-sq.-ft. store for its Mujirushi Ryohin —or Muji —brand inside the New York Times Tower sometime later this year, it will raise an intriguing question. Can a “no-logo” brand win mass-market appeal in the rough and tumble U.S. retailing sector? Muji's success in Japan and Europe suggests it might play well in the U.S. Since 2002, the brand, which translates from Japanese as “No Brand, Quality Products,” has tested the U.S. market with a limited selection of its 7,000 products at stores run by the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Among Muji's biggest boosters are consumers who are tired of in-your-face logos and over-the-top designs.
And yet, Muji isn't just another generic brand. The company taps notable designers such as Sam Hecht, Jasper Morrison, and Naoto Fukasawa to create products, which gives it street cred with the “designerati.” Its policy of using recyclable materials appeals to eco-friendly types. Plus, the company also has cultivated a consumer-friendly image by tapping into an online community of diehard fans who vote on new product designs, offer feedback for design modifications, or protest when the company discontinues a product they can't get elsewhere. Here's a look at a few of Muji's products. Some may be headed stateside soon.