The mothership has landed. The MUJI mothership, that is. If you're not a fetishist of Japanese products and design, this news may be completely meaningless. But, for devotees of MUJI's "brandless" brand of smart design, today marked the opening of its first flagship store in the United States.
To refresh your memory, MUJI opened a shop in SoHo last November (covered in an earlier post here). This satiated the MUJI cult for the time being. But, before long, attention turned toward MUJI's construction of a much larger store in Times Square.
I attended the press preview of the new MUJI earlier today. Located on the ground floor of the new New York Times Building, the store boasts 4,350 square feet of shopping space. Surrounded by glass walls, it's a light-filled, airy interior for contemplating the array of stationary, clothing, housewares, and travel goods (and whether you really need MUJI's super-cool wall-mounted CD player even though your entire collection of music now resides on an iPod).
I headed to the cooking supplies and dining collection, which ranges from utilitarian silverware to smartly designed housewares (I wrote earlier about the miniature boxes of cellophane and foil, perfect for the space-starved). While all the products are lined up oh-so-perfectly, and most have been pared down to their core size and purpose, there's an occasional touch of whimsy. In particular, the collection of "my" linen napkins, coasters, and aprons, which include thread and stencils for embroidering your own words on the textiles. Or, thermal glasses that contain the shape of a goblet or beer glass inside (for more, see the slideshow below).
I have to admit I came away feeling a little underwhelmed. While the shop inhabits a large space, it felt modest in terms of what New Yorkers have come to expect in massive "flagship" stores. It also seemed like most of the items -- at least the cookware -- could already be found at the downtown shop. I was hoping for more stuff, but the Times Square store sells only a subset of the wide-ranging products found in Japan. Where are the children's clothing and toys, the updated old-school bikes, or the sleek appliances? Maybe they will arrive in the future? MUJI cultists can only hope.