[From October Issue 2014]
Dried shiitake mushrooms that taste no different even though they’re cracked; recycled memo pads that aren’t pure white but are good enough to use; u-shaped pasta made from spaghetti that has been discarded to create uniform strands; clothing and small items made of purposely un-dyed material that utilizes the cloth’s natural hue. These are all products “Mujirushi Ryohin” planned and developed soon after the company was founded.
Mujirushi Ryohin was conceived in 1980 with the catchphrase “There’s a Reason It’s Cheap.” Before that, shops were crammed with products that had unnecessary features, had too much decoration and had excessive packaging. Mujirushi Ryohin focused on producing goods stripped of such wasteful excess. Its product line is comprised of such things as clothing, household goods, and food.
Each Mujirushi Ryohin product needs a good reason to come into being. This reason is outlined on packaging, wrapping paper and price tags. At first, the company was a private brand owned by Seiyu, but in 1989, as Ryohin Keikaku Co.,Ltd., it became an independent enterprise. It’s grown into a global brand that now has 269 stores in Japan, supplies another 116 stores and operates a total of 255 stores outside the country. It operates overseas under the name of MUJI.
The idea of “no branding, but quality products” is contained within the name Mujirushi Ryohin. For product planning and development, the company therefore places importance on “creating things that are really necessary in everyday life, made in the most functional form.” In order to achieve this, the company strives to source different materials, to cut down on production time and to simplify packaging.
A characteristic of Mujirushi Ryohin is that customers’ opinions gathered in shops, by phone, by email and on the Internet are taken into account when it comes to product development and the quality of service given. For example, the “Body Fitting Sofa” was developed in answer to those who had commented that “I wish I could buy a sofa, but it would take up too much space in my room, so I’d rather have a big cushion that I could comfortably sink my body into.” It was a big hit and more than 60,000 were sold in the first year and a half.
Ryohin Keikaku has a number of rules about “things Mujirushi Ryohin shouldn’t do.” These include: “No brand name on products;” “Only sell things designed for Mujirushi Ryohin;” “No use of strong colors on products” and “Never hire celebrities for ads.” This is so employees never forget the essence of what Mujirushi Ryohin is about.
Inspired by Mujirushi Ryohin, other companies launched successive products with a similar aim. Most have vanished, however. They didn’t last because the attitude to production of these imitation products was based on vague notions. Mujirushi means no brand. But you could say that “Mujirushi” itself is now recognized as a reliable brand.
Text: ITO Koichi／文：伊藤公一