News that Japanese retailer Muji will be opening its first store in Canada by the end of the year, a Toronto location that is expected to open in mid-December, sent the Twittersphere in to all-caps giddiness on Monday. “MUJI is coming to TORONTO – I am SO EXCITED,” went one typical response. To call its products and minimalist sensibility beloved is an understatement. We asked design notables what’s on their most wanted list.
Shauna Levy, president of the Design Exchange
“I’ve been a big Muji fan since forever, making it a must-stop and shop on trips. (In fact, over 10 years ago, I actually reached out to Muji about their plans for the Canadian market). I absolutely love the idea that you can pick up a t-shirt, table or pencils all in one place and all are designed equally as smartly. Sadly, since Caban, we haven’t had anything remotely like this in Toronto. Muji enforces the very essence of what design is – design for the everyday. Muji’s approach democratizes design, and highlights the utilitarian value of good design. Its lack of emphasis on branding has become a brand in and of itself, and as we as a society continue to move away from big ubiquitous logos, Muji is a welcome and refreshing option.”
Anwar Mekhayech, partner at the Design Agency
“I have always wondered why Muji was not here yet. I’m surprised it took so long. As far as I know they don’t franchise, so I guess it took head office some time to set their sights on Canada, although we have a really strong design community and I think it will flourish here. I hope they keep it boutique sized and don’t go the big-box route. I’ve been a fan for years when I first saw it in Paris probably in the mid-90’s. I still religiously pop into one every time I am in Europe to see if I can pick out any new cool ideas or items. What I buy is always the ‘stickies’ since they come in a cool case and in cool colours. But I’ve used their T-shirts, sketch books, pens, umbrellas and even rain gear over the years. I love the raw, recycled no-brand aesthetic and the minimal packaging philosophy.”
Omer Arbel, creative director of Bocci and founder of Vancouver-based Omer Arbel Office
“I love Muji! All our stationery is Muji. Every one of my drawings is done using a Muji pen. This is a momentous event for Canada!”
Donald Chong, architect, Williamson Chong
“Sometimes, every once in a while, I literally say, ‘We need to take a Muji approach.’ It’s about the fact that we don’t have to be apologetic about using our design sensibilities as a tool to just get the right kind of practical needs out. There’s a kind of quiet anonymity of their designs. It just delivers. There’s one particular notebook I love. It’s perfectly sized for my bag. It’s a perfect companion to the world of being inundated with digital devices. Muji understands there’s still a culture of stationery and penmanship.”
Elvira Barriga, creative director, Bruce Mau Design
“To say it with the Muji sense for simplicity: Great news! I have always been a big fan of the Bauhaus aesthetic and philosophy but often missed the human aspect in the products. Muji has managed to translate the Bauhaus principles into a minimalist, contemporary design language that considers the end consumer at its core. It is pretty impressive how diligently Muji sticks to its principles of simplicity and ecological awareness. No matter what field they expand into, the (no-) brand essence never gets diluted. Muji notebooks are my all time favourites. The paper is great to write on. The price is unbeatable. I have them in all different sizes. I bring huge stacks of them back to the BMD studio when I go to Muji in New York. Having a Muji in Toronto will make my luggage much lighter!”
Judy Merry, Director, Interior Design Show and Vice President, Informa Canada
“I love the Muji aesthetic, everything is so simple and yet so amazing. The great design, simplicity and attention to detail fit perfectly into the Toronto lifestyle….it’s about time! “
Heather Dubbeldam, Dubbeldam Architecture + Design
“I’m so excited about Muji coming to Canada, I have been a huge fan since the mid-90s when I discovered them in London, and in every trip to NYC or Europe I make a pilgrimage to a Muji store. I can imagine that the store will be very well received upon their arrival to Toronto, since we have one of the largest creative communities in North America and a real consumer appetite for great design. My favorite Muji item is my grey Muji watch, which of course does not have any brand markings, but has wonderful proportions and is so well designed. I also love their pens, which probably isn’t surprising, since architects have a pen fetish.”
Christian Woo, founder of the eponymous Vancouver-based design firm
“I think the arrival of Muji in Canada is great news for us consumers. They bring a distinct line up of utilitarian products with a design sensibility unlike any there retailer in the country. They’re philosophies around marketing, branding, manufacturing and design set them apart and help create a unique shopping experience.
From a design perspective specifically, they’re philosophy is to create subtle, simple usable products. I admire this. Without a doubt we tend to live with to much stuff. Muji brings a huge ranges of mass produced items which have been deigned with consideration and which have not been over packaged. What do I like of theirs? I love the stationery selections most but then have you ever seen such a great looking rice cooker?”
These interviews have been condensed and edited.