MUJI, the Japanese housewares and clothing shopping destination, has arrived in New York City with its first store in the United States. The company has created an anti-brand that fetishizes brand-free minimalism, a philosophy of "simplicity achieved through a complexity of thought and design" according to PR materials. And, people fetishize MUJI, which has until now only maintained a mini-shop at the MoMA Design Store before opening a full-fledged store in SoHo last week (for wall-to-wall coverage of the opening day, be sure to check out New York shopping blog Racked).
I attended a press preview on Friday morning to find out what the MUJI phenomenon was all about and to see what it offered to the culinary-minded shopper. While not as large as many of the other "flagship" chain stores that now dominate SoHo, the MUJI experience can be overwhelming, with a floor to ceiling selection of household goods -- from bedding and storage containers -- and clothing. Indecisive shoppers beware -- if you are one, like myself, you might lose upwards of 30 minutes poring over the stationary display, which includes accessories to build your own custom pen. Sheesh.
Turning to kitchen supplies, there's a fine selection of minimalist bone china and porcelain dishware and teapots. MUJI sells its own line of pots. pans, woks, and standard kitchen tools. Of these, I took home an inexpensive hand-held slicer and grater. There were woven cotton placemats and coasters in mostly muted colors (as is almost everything in the store). Among the glassware selection I found insulated glasses similar to these, only cheaper and holding the shape of a beer vessel inside a tall glass. But, most intriguing of all might have been the short, skinny rolls of plastic and aluminum wrap and semi-opaque plastic cases designed to hold them. This was what the MUJI sensibility was all about (and perfect for a space-starved New York apartment). You could probably fit four of these small, simple, color-less containers in the space occupied by a big yellow box of stretch-tite. This is how MUJI could suck you in and make you become a believer. First, it's the plastic wrap and the next thing you know you'll be there spending hours building your own pens.
More photos after the jump.