Muji representative Masaaki Kanai tells us how a ‘no brand, no frills’ strategy has made the Japanese company a successful international business.
31 March, 2016
Top image: Muji Shanghai
Since its founding in 1980, Muji’s philosophy of ‘simplicity as beauty’ has garnered the Japanese brand many steadfast fans around the world. In Singapore recently to speak at Innovation by Design Conference 2016, Masaaki Kanai, Chairman and Representative Director of Ryohin Keikaku Co., Ltd. – the parent company of Muji – spoke to a rapt audience about the brand’s global strategy, its philosophy and its design work.
Perhaps in keeping with the ‘spirit of Muji’ Kanai’s presentation took on a rather lyrical and poetic approach to offer the audience keen insights into the workings and nature of the brand.
Muji is well recognised for its value-led, beautifully pared down designs. At the heart of the brand is the idea of simplicity as a means to change the consumer experience and to bring a sense of calm into one’s hectic life. Such simple, modest designs also give it a wider, more universal appeal. The company has a no label, no brand policy, placing emphasis instead on providing quality products at reasonable prices. In his presentation, Kanai described Muji as the ‘antithesis’ of a ‘consumer society’ in which mass production, mass consumption, and mass disposal thrive. Much consideration, he said, goes into the selection of materials, the streamlining of processes, and the simplification of packaging. The audience was told how Muji seeks to make objects that are purposeful and that address specific needs, and that fit into the idea of “this is enough” and that “this will do”.
Kanai also shared how Muji’s business and interests extended well beyond the retail of household and lifestyle products. The company has designed airport lounges and public spaces, and undertaken public housing renovations. They even offer services such as baby crib rentals. Social and environmental initiatives that bring people closer to nature also factor into the company’s agenda.
In closing, Kanai fittingly likened the brand to water – calm, essential, always nearby, and offering rest and richness.
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