Take Your Brand And Shove It

Muji is a Japanese store that is, um, all the rage in NYC right now, apparently.

What do they sell? High-quality merchandise with no brand names. The international chain started in the 1980′s as Mujirushi Ryohin (“no label, quality goods”), a sort of “house brand” within the Seiyu supermarket chain. The store became an independent company in 1989 and just opened its first location in the United States.

We’d be tempted to call Muji’s popularity an ironic trend if it weren’t for the pure and simple fact that people actually do want high-quality, well designed products.

It is perhaps a sign on the times that the conspicuous absence of a brand name is more of an endorsement than the “luxury” labels that are so often affixed to the same crap you buy at Walmart.

Who needs a “brand,” anyway? If a store wants to build a reputation by offering quality products, we wish them the best of luck.


The Civilized World Finds a Refuge
[New York Times]
(Photo:diametrik)

Comments

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  1. teqsun.com says:

    I agree with this idea 100% I have always hated being a walking billboard.

    I don’t need to advertise that I am part of the American Eagle Athletics Department since 1323 thank you.

  2. new and troubling questions says:

    I’m SO excited about a Muji opening in the US. The only other place in the US that you could get their products (until now) was the MOMA store. And it’s true, their products are well-priced, high quality, and well designed, with function in mind rather than ugly logos splashed over everything. Slate had a good article about this: [www.slate.com]

  3. Electroqueen says:

    Weird, I’ve never heard of this store. Oddly it’s a pun for the word bug, mushi.

  4. ConsumptionJunkie says:

    From the NYT article: “A prime stop for no-brainer gifts, unless your list includes someone who is Japanese. (It would be like giving her something from Kmart.)”

  5. Buran says:

    This article strikes me as a paid shill for this place, which isn’t like the NY Times.

  6. rolla says:

    @teqsun.com: i agree with you on AE…every piece of their clothing has that stupid bird, big-lettered AE, year, etc. They ruin a perfectly good piece of clothing b/c of their advertisement. I would only buy their jeans b/c there isnt any overt advertisement on them.

  7. Myotheralt says:

    @ConsumptionJunkie: What’s wrong with KMart? A few years ago, while I was in Korea, I found a set of Phillips over ear headphones. I found them in a Wal-Mart.

  8. num1skeptic says:

    well first the headline “take your brand and shove it”, then they go on to wish them luck? i’m confused? i would think people would rather have clothes without the brands than with them. makes me wonder how much a pair of jeans cost.

  9. SOhp101 says:

    @teqsun.com: Those ‘walking billboard’ T-shirts (for high end designers) are cheaper than the rest of their product line for a reason.

    Brands like American Eagle or Abercrombie & Fitch/Hollister rely on shameless branding because teens think it’s so cool.

  10. ConsumptionJunkie says:

    @myotheralt:
    K-Mart S-U-C-K-S!!!!!

  11. spinachdip says:

    @num1skeptic: Well, you see, what they did there was…

    “Take your brand and shove it” is spoken from the point of view of Muji to its more branded competitors (since their whole brand identity is about not being branded, if you will).

  12. stopshopping says:

    I would be concerned where the stuff is manufactured. High quality at what HUMAN price? Don’t care what name is or isn’t on it if it comes from the same sweatshop slums.

  13. Myotheralt says:

    @ConsumptionJunkie: Oh yeah, I kinda forgot about that part.

  14. catcherintheeye says:

    @num1skeptic: I think the idea is because they are located in New York.

    “Got a problem with that? Shove it!”

  15. catcherintheeye says:

    @spinachdip: Sure, that too.

  16. socalrob of the 24 and a half century says:

    @myotheralt:

    Walmart > Kmart. I personally haven’t set foot in Kmart for 6 years, where as I was in walmart like 2 weeks ago. But again Walmart is a rarity for me, just go there because the girlfriend likes it. I prefer target for my low priced crap.

  17. just_paranoid says:

    @spinachdip: wow. didn’t catch that myself.

  18. rouftop says:

    First, replace all your branded goods with the anonymous variety. Once everybody’s done that, the branded ones will come back in vogue.

    “Now the Star-bellied Sneetches had bellies with stars.
    The Plain-bellied Sneetches had none upon thars….”

  19. spinachdip says:

    @imdgonz: [www.eu-japan.gr.jp]

    Doesn’t go into detail, except that 80% of apparel is produced in China, while most of the production is done in “low cost countries”.

    This is just my speculation, but since quality is one of their stated goals and they keep their production in-house rather than outsourced, I don’t think sweatshops are an issue. Plus, their primary method of cost reduction is economy of scale, rather than cutting corners. For what it’s worth, they do at least pay lip service to social responsibility and suchlike.

  20. Avery says:

    I find it weird that Muji keeps the name Muji in the English-speaking world. To keep the sense of utter neutrality which accompanies a visit to their Japanese stores, they should call themselves “Brandless Goods.” But I guess retaining some of the Japanese makes it edgy and cool. Oh well. Their stuff is indeed high quality.

  21. forgottenpassword says:

    SOunds good to me! I am all for buying good quality clothes (at reasonable prices) with little-known brand names! DO you have any idea how hard it is for me to find a decent baseball cap that doesnt have some logo or idiotic saying on it?

    I love my 14 dollar wrangler or faded glory jeans I buy at walmart! CHeap & relatively decent quality (for me anyway).

    INB4THEWALMART-BASHING

  22. Nunya B says:

    Regarding the slave labor issue: their primary business is stuff that can be machine made (stationery, home goods). Their clothes, though, seriously look like something you would find on a psych ward. They’re very, very bland; as far as brandless clothing goes, I’m sold on Uniqlo and nothing will change that.

    MUJI notebooks kick seven hundred thousand different kinds of ass, though. I buy them in vast quantitiies and still have change left over from a $20.

  23. spinachdip says:

    @Avery: FWIW, “Muji” isn’t a generic word either (well, other than it being short for Mujirushi Ryohin).

    And “Brandless Quality Goods” kinda loses the simple, clean quality of “Muji”. And yeah, the whole J-chic thing. The store’s a couple of blocks down from Uniqlo (who actually created a Japanese script logo specially for the NY store, ironically) who have also gone upscale for the US market.

  24. mrestko says:

    I hadn’t heard of this before but it’s quite an interesting concept. It seems that what they’re doing is substituting the Muji brand for the manufacturer’s brand. This, in turn, probably provides a the store a bigger incentive to carry quality products and give the customers more reason to trust the store.

  25. 13743an says:

    Why can’t the store with well designed goods have a well designed website for all the non-hipsters that live far from NY just see what their products look like? Did they blow their whole budget on rent? And btw, how are they different than IKEA, other than IKEA doesn’t sell clothing?

  26. MaxRC says:

    As others have mentioned, this store is rather oxymoronic in the sense that really all they’ve done is replace otherwise individual brands with the overall Muji brand. Sort of like what Ikea does to furniture.

  27. Sonnymooks says:

    @spinachdip:

    I hope “quality” isn’t code for “we beat the living crap out of our workers if they don’t do a good job”.

    I always wondered if sweatshops beat or abused workers if said sweatshops got complaints from the clients about shoddy craftsmanship.

  28. Argent says:

    @MRESTKO: There is no “manufacturer’s brand.” The comparison to KMart isn’t really a literal one (ie. they don’t sell third-party merchandise). Their product direction is overseen by design advisory board (Kenya Hara, their current design director, recently gave a talk in NYC) and they sometimes hire outside designers or design firms to work on products.

    They’re more like IKEA, only with a smaller, broader, higher-end, zen-like product line (and without the funny product names).

  29. spinachdip says:

    @MaxRC: I was wrong earlier when I said they keep their manufacturing in-house, but they do their own product development, so I don’t think “replace otherwise individual brands with the overall Muji brand” is accurate either, since the products are created under the Muji brand identity, rather than for anyone else.

  30. dysthymia says:

    one worrrrrd for non NYers: MoMA.

  31. peggynature says:

    @rouftop: SNEE- SNEE- DID YOU SAY SNEETCHES?

    YES, S-N-DOUBLE-E-T-C-H-E-S, SNEETCHES.

  32. madanthony says:

    this jumped out at me:

    .. perfectly fine T-shirts ($20.50) that make you wonder what exactly stores that sell $120 T-shirts want from you.

    I’m puzzled that $20 t-shirts are a good deal, let alone that there are stores selling $120 t-shirts. Heck, I spent half that the last time I bought a sportcoat. I usually buy t-shirts at Old Navy for around $4, and feel kind of guilty when I spend $10 on one from shirt.woot

    Reading the NY Times always makes me feel poor.

  33. wring says:

    omgggggggg is this the 100 yen store??? :((

  34. IrisMR says:

    My, this looks like a fine store. I hope they’ll spread to Canada.

  35. lightaugust says:

    High quality, low prices… smacked in the middle of retail New York during the Christmas shopping season… shouldn’t this be like, Consumerist’s finest hour? So, how’d we end up arguing about whether or not KMart is worth going to?

  36. no.no.notorious says:

    “I felt as if I was standing in American Apparel, circa 2004, or Benetton, circa 1993″

    how chic. nah, next time i go to nyc ill probably go there. im sure theres good stuff for good deals, but i also don’t want to feel like im walking though a bard college dorm room

  37. theutopian says:

    Muji is great. They are everywhere in London and whenever I go I have to stock up. They make great stationary, great notebooks. And their pens are simply the best pen you will ever use. I recommend the .5mm pen. Use it, you will want to buy ten. Their soaps are also great, mandarin is my favorite. And everything is dirt cheap.

  38. Miranda says:

    Every single “stylish and unique” Muji thing I’ve ever seen… the things sold at the MoMA store, things featured on people’s blogs, things like the metal pencil case mentioned in the article… those things have already been widely knocked-off in the US, with no particular recognizable brand attached to them, in places like the Target office supply department, The Container Store, the notebook aisle at Barnes and Noble or Borders.

    Maybe there’s something visibly unique about seeing it all in front of you in a Muji store, but even as someone who has gone through phases of being design-obsessed, I’ve never really understood the Cult of Muji. Their goods are so basic that they’re easy to knock off, and have been commonly knocked off for at least the last 5 years, and as such, I don’t think the chain is necessarily even needed in the US.

    Once in a while I see something cool that they’ve made, though.

  39. magilacudy says:

    Maybe I’m missing the point of the article, but none of these sound like good prices or values…

    “dark green corduroy button-front ($78), a soft washed-cotton blazer ($86.50) and perfectly fine T-shirts ($20.50)”

    “brown brushed-cotton military-style jacket ($201.25)”

    So what, it’s a pricier Japanese H&M. NYC pretentiousness astounds me sometimes.

    /Former New Yorker rant

  40. salsa says:

    @kisskisskiss: Yess uniqlo! Just got a dress for 4.49 pounds

  41. BugMeNot2 says:

    Cayce Pollard shops there.

  42. VoxPopuli says:

    @madanthony: Yeah, they make it seem like no one ever shops at places like Old Navy in NYC. Which makes me wonder who all those people are in the long-ass lines at Old Navy here. They’re not all tourists.

  43. Jesse in Japan says:

    @Electroqueen: No, it’s not a pun of the word for bug.

  44. quail says:

    As to the comment with H&M, I do like their stuff but stopped myself several times from picking something up because it was branded on the outside — a kid’s sport coat with a torn looking rugby crest, and a man’s fall coat with junk lettering on the outside, etc.

    In the early 80′s when Izzod and Polo started putting their logos on their shirts I knew of several ‘old money’ types who continued to buy the clothes but had ripped out the logos before wearing them. In the end they moved on to other brands.

  45. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    I adore Muji. I have several of their things that I got from MoMA and Ebay sellers (their bento box, for example, is an exercise in absolute design purity and perfection of function). No clothes yet, though. I’m dying, yes, absolutely expiring, for them to open one in the tony district just north of the Houston Galleria.

    Of course, I love Ikea too… but that’s just me, I’ve always loved this sort of thing.

  46. harumph says:

    muji is the best. i traveled around japan and went to muji everywhere. their stuff is high quality and well made. too bad the stuff is pricier here than in japan though, it would be a wal-mart/ k-mart killer if they had the japan prices here. still a welcome development though.

  47. stinkyrobot says:

    I love Muji. Living in Japan it’s hard not going there for stuff like plates and what not. Sure the Â¥100 shops are cheaper, but the quality lacks. Though I did see a pillow I really wanted for about 60 bucks. Gotta save up for that one.

  48. Wormfather says:

    Other than my UConn and Jets hoodies, I have nothing in my wardrobe that advertises other companies, it’s bs, I should get an advertising stypen (sp) if you expect me to promote your brand.

  49. SavageATL says:

    This is just a me thing, but we got an Ikea in Atlanta not too long ago, and- just because it’s Swedish designed doesn’t make that great. Particle board is particle board, and I don’t know how you associate “quality” with particle board, even if it has a funny name and looks sleek. If you really want something inexpensive and high quality, try a thrift store or consignment shop. Furniture made out of actual wood, with classic lines, for next to nothing, interesting vintage clothing, great vintage decor items- much better than new at a fraction of the cost.

  50. RvLeshrac says:

    @SavageATL:

    Totally!

    Where else can you find a leather couch in good condition for $40?

  51. RvLeshrac says:

    @SavageATL:

    And what side of the city do you live on? There are a few decent thrift stores out here near Marietta that I’ve always poked around in, but I always wondered if there were some better ones around town.

  52. Miranda says:

    @magilacudy: I’ve thought for a while that the cost of living in NYC gives people a skewed idea of the value of money (IE, a $75 t-shirt starts to seem “cheap” when you’re paying $2K/month in rent; this is driven into American culture by the fact that most major magazines are based in NYC and the fact that these magazines have advertisers to appease), but that doesn’t explain the popularity of H&M or Old Navy. Still, I know lots of people in the NY area who consider those as places to buy “disposable clothes,” whereas, where I live, it’s where people go to buy inexpensive basics that they plan to wear for a few years.

    @SavageATL: Most furniture consignment stores have never, ever been “cheap” (at least, not that I’ve ever been in), and most thrift stores know when they have a good thing and price it accordingly (and few actually get the good things in most areas — most I visit get particle-board crap in its broken-down stages). This isn’t to say that you can’t find those things, only to say that cheap furniture isn’t actually dripping from the proverbial vines in jewel-like clusters.

    Nowadays I think a lot of people know what they have, if they have anything nice to begin with, and want to sell it in consignment shops or on Craigslist before giving it to a thrift store. This is not true in all areas but it’s true through most of the US. You can definitely get deals, but even a “good price” on furniture that was originally expensive can be much more money than anything that would qualify as “cheap.”

    (In my area, what you see in thrift stores is broken-down particle-board bookcases, and what you see in consignment is often particle-board stuff priced above what it originally sold for!)

  53. RvLeshrac says:

    @Miranda:

    As time goes on, yes, these things wind up on Craigslist more often.

    The ‘rich’ still give things away to thrift stores, though – the majority of them are charitable (Goodwill), and the donations can be written off. The stores don’t charge much because the majority of people who shop there are shopping there for a good reason – they can’t afford ‘nice’ new things.

  54. ThePlaz says:

    Anyone notice this is the same thing Ikea does? (except, possibly, the quality part) -Michael [theplaz.com]

  55. growler says:

    MUJI is boring, and overpriced.

    Lemmings.

  56. zingbot says:

    @Miranda: And alternately, I’ve often thought that people owning and funding cars outside of NYC have skewed their ideas of what money is worth.

    No one here is comparing the price of a t-shirt to rent, I assure you. In fact, we know about the better qualities and prices just by living in the city and talking to each other. Muji is one of those, as is Uniqlo and formerly H&M. Most people I know have never paid 75 dollars for a t-shirt. Ever.

    You make us sound like such heathens, when in reality we just live really efficiently.