MUJI showcases contemporary Japanese creators in Milan

There’s a new interiors trend that seeing artists and designers introduced to a wider audience by showcasing them in high street stores. Similar to diffusion ranges in fashion, we’re seeing collaborations between the likes of Habitat and Henry Holland, Tom Dixon and IKEA and now MUJI is host to six contemporary Japanese creators in their new offering in Milan.  The Idealist met with them at their launch as part of Milan Design Week to find out more about the inspiration behind the range.

The MUJI look

MUJI has always been known for their muted colours and minimalism and that aesthetic is certainly reflected in this new exclusive range, but this is the first time we have seen them showcase the designers/artists of the works themselves and talk about the process of their creation.


The exhibition is called “Tatazumai” which translates to “appearance,” “shape,” or “atmosphere,” and is an expression of the way a single object can change and charge the atmosphere around it. All the pieces we saw are modest, handmade and beautiful and speak to the process of their own creation (I mean, they look made rather than manufactured). We particularly liked the glassware from Tsuji Kazumi in sea green, orange, blue and white. All of her handmade glass is created in her own atelier, from glassblowing, to cutting, decorating and delivery.

The tatazumai range is comprised of over a hundred woodwork, ceramic, glass and clothing objects, reflecting the brand’s emphasis on the power of simplicity, quality and functionality. This is quite a departure from the plastic boxes, selvage jeans and pale wood pieces that MUJI is known for, but fits in perfectly with their overall look.

This focus on celebrating the small things suffuses the whole range.

It’s all in the name

If you’ve ever wondered why MUJI products are so plain (it’s the kind of plain we love that’s shared with a certain Scandi aesthetic), it’s all in the name. The name comes from their vision to sell ‘No Brand, Quality Goods’ which in Japanese is “Mujirushi Ryohin”, or MUJI for short. They’ve come a long way from their first concession in Liberty of London in 1992, but the cool, perfectly thought out look remains.

Beautiful ceramics

We spoke to another of the artists, Iwata Keisuke, a ceramicist who explained his work and encouraged us to pick it up. He was first introduced to pottery many years ago when his father took him  to a ceramics factory which lay in a valley two hours away by bus and train from his home. People sat cross-legged on straw mats working on things and seemed serene compared to life in his coal-making town. He was drawn to the dusty water jugs at the back of the shelves and now finds himself creating ceramics that incorporate water. The most curious piece was a beautiful ceramic ball designed to hold a single seed which when watered will grow into a plant.  This focus on celebrating the small things and the beauty of hand-crafted objects suffuses the whole range. While none of it was cheap, we could have cheerfully filled a box with all of it. A handmade wooden box with no writing on it, obviously.

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