MUJI & Naoto Fukasawa

Posted on March 10, 2012 by Toothpicker There have been 0 comments

As soon as I heard that Naoto Fukasawa (Japanese product designer and advisor for MUJI) will be in town to give a talk at the Design Museum, I booked the ticket immediately knowing that it will be sold-out event (and I was right). I have always liked his minimalist designs i.e. his CD player for MUJI, and products at his own company, ±0. In 2009, I saw his exhibition at the 21_21 design sight in Tokyo, Outline, which featured his products along with photographs by Tamotsu Fujii. The unique approach of photographing the contour of the products fully captured the simplicity, beauty and timelessness of his work.

Fukusawa/ Fujii's Outline exhibition at 21_21 design sight, Tokyo 2009

In London, the Design Museum talk coincided with the opening of the exhibition, 'Product fitness 80 - MUJI', just a few days before the one year anniversary of the devastating earthquake that hit Japan on 11th March 2011.

Apart from Fukasawa, Sam Hecht and Konstantin Grcic, product designers who have collaborated with MUJI, and publisher, Tyler Brûlé also took part in the talk. The 45-min presentation given by Fukasawa on MUJI's motto, 'Product fitness 80', was thought-provoking and inspiring. This motto is MUJI's response to the aftermath of the earthquake last year, which is to raise awareness of the excessive consumption of goods and materials in our society today. Instead of over doing everything and aiming for 100% satisfaction, they are suggesting that we should aim for 80% satisfaction, share instead of own and slowing down our pace. This motto is also used to review their own "adequacy" (fitness) and renew their determination to pursue craftsmanship in harmony with society and the earth.

Their new concept store (set up in their first ever retail shop in Tokyo), Found MUJI, houses a collection of remodeled products based on durable everyday objects found across the globe. The idea is not to re-design these products, but rather to update them slightly and incorporate them into our contemporary lifestyle while retaining their original essence. Fukasawa is especially fond of the gardening gloves he found in China (see below), as well as the Chinese porcelain bowls that have been produced using the same technique for centuries.

Having witnessed the ups and downs of MUJI over the years, and being slightly disappointed with their direction in recent years, I feel that they are finally back on track again. Although the sustainable living and balance lifestyle motto is nothing new, as an influential lifestyle brand, their re-evaluation or reflection would have an impact on the society esp. in Japan. A visit to their mega store in Yurakucho in Tokyo will make you understand that they are not just another 'brand' in Japan.

At the exhibition, you can see that they have re-worked some of their products by downsizing. There are large towels that can be cut into smaller sizes, a pan lid that fits 4 different pan sizes, spiral notebooks with wider gaps in order to reduce the wire used, narrower toilet rolls as well as downsized credit cards... It is quite rare for an established company to re-evaluate and modify their products in such a way but I think this approach is an encouraging one.



The DIY cardboard child chairs (see below) are shown for the 1st time in Europe and you can see Fukusawa's fun version at MUJI my chair exhibition, photographed at Detour Hong Kong in 2010.

Whenever there is a crisis, natural, man-made or personal, it is usually a wake-up call for us to reflect and understand what went wrong. By blocking or escaping from the situation will only provide another opportunity for it to happen again. Therefore, we need to deal with the issue and find a way to solve it in order to prevent it from happening again. If companies, designers and individuals can all respond to crisis in a positive and meditative way like MUJI, then the world will definitely be a better place.


Product fitness 80 - MUJI is showing from 9th - 18th March at the Design Museum.



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