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Showing You the Muji: On Why to Love The Muji

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In London, Paris and Tokyo, the kids are laughing at us today, as we swoon over Muji. They've had the stores at their disposal for years, and the magic of Muji is old hat. And to fully understand this, we asked Charlotte Druckman, a fashion and styles writer, and longtime Muji obsessive, to teach us of the Muji. And away we go.

It was 1993-ish. The end of my high school years. And our family pal laura from London came to visit. She had these aluminum binders and matching mechanical pencils. I coveted them.

"Where'd you get those?" I asked.

"Muji," she shrugged, nonchalant, not so much like i should know what Muji was, but like it was no big deal.

"What's that?"

"Oh, it's this Japanese store that just opened on Kensington High Street. It means 'no brand' or something. Everything's really simple." I made a mental note, Muji=cool.

A few months later, in London, I called laura, "Take me to your Muji."

And so to Muji I went. And from that moment on, shopping was not the same. Every school supply? Muji. My travel sewing kit? Muji. Then, a few years later in Paris, I discovered Muji clothing, Muji watches. In fact, nearly everything i could think of (except, yoga mats and tea pots--dear Muji gods, please hear this and take the hint), Muji has made.

So, here: To understand Muji is to let go of all you know. That's right. Wipe the slate clean, people. Forget your notions of snazzy packaging, is-that-porn? billboards or celebrity mascots. This is the no-brand brand. Which is not to say there's no brand recognition involved.

When you pay for a set of brilliantly colored fine-tip pens (if this correspondent could, she'd handwrite this post in the turquoise ink); for a simple brown-bag-it style of lined notebook (with perforated edges for perfect tears); for the most adorable comfortably fitted navy hoodie sweatshirt; for jewel-toned glycerine soaps made of avocado or tangerine; for a classic acrylic coffee table or ash dining table that the folks at ikea could call their own if only it would fall apart next week; for jensen-on-the-cheap cutlery or tapered glass jug, in short, for anything, you are shelling out for exactly that. Nothing more or less. Just the zen of Muji.

And now, the subversive bit: the no-logo no-glitz merch is actually damn chic looking. Always has been. And it's the opposite of label-whoring. If you know, you know. If you don't, you don't. The streamlined cardboard packaging? Humble but modern. And very recognizable. Which means, everyone knows you're flying Muji. If they know enough to know. —Charlotte Druckman
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