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Muji Reimagines Humble Industrial Containers As Chic Storage

The no-frills Japanese retailer unveils a new Found Muji series inspired by utilitarian boxes from the U.S. and Japan.

  • <p>The Kobe Planet Film Archive storehouse holds more than 20,000 movies. Old films stored here include news from the Meiji era and other valuable footage.</p>
  • <p>Film cans are resistant to shock and rust, and are highly effective at blocking light.</p>
  • <p>The acid-free paper boxes used for archival storage are made to last for at least 300 years and have to comply with the Library of Congress standards.</p>
  • <p>Muji admires coolers for their efficient design: The handle on a cooler folds flat and the lid is reversible, with drink holders on the other side.</p>
  • <p>Polypropylene boxes used for transport have a simple lock design that keeps the lid securely shut, while access remains quick and easy.</p>
  • <p>Wooden boxes, such as the ones used for transporting produce or fish, served as inspiration for the <em>hinoki</em> (Japanese cypress) boxes in the collection.</p>
  • <p>Fiber boxes—cylindrical containers made of paper that replaced metal drums during World War II in Japan—can be used as storage or toy boxes.</p>
  • <p>These metal cans were made for the express purpose of storing movie film, but they are also useful for organizing items such as photos and paper items.</p>
  • <p>Muji's multipurpose Found Muji Boxes II collection offers several different shapes and sizes.</p>
  • <p>Plastic boxes adapted from the common polypropylene transport box are light, tough, and durable, and can be used inside and outside.</p>
  • <p>The acid-free paper boxes used for archiving documents are free from harmful acids and contaminants, and perfect for storing personal papers.</p>
  • <p>Wooden boxes in the Muji collection have been adapted and crafted to match the retailer's range of storage products.</p>
  • 01 /13

    The Kobe Planet Film Archive storehouse holds more than 20,000 movies. Old films stored here include news from the Meiji era and other valuable footage.

  • 02 /13

    Film cans are resistant to shock and rust, and are highly effective at blocking light.

  • 03 /13

    The acid-free paper boxes used for archival storage are made to last for at least 300 years and have to comply with the Library of Congress standards.

  • 04 /13

    Muji admires coolers for their efficient design: The handle on a cooler folds flat and the lid is reversible, with drink holders on the other side.

  • 05 /13

    Polypropylene boxes used for transport have a simple lock design that keeps the lid securely shut, while access remains quick and easy.

  • 06 /13

    Wooden boxes, such as the ones used for transporting produce or fish, served as inspiration for the hinoki (Japanese cypress) boxes in the collection.

  • 07 /13

    Fiber boxes—cylindrical containers made of paper that replaced metal drums during World War II in Japan—can be used as storage or toy boxes.

  • 08 /13

    These metal cans were made for the express purpose of storing movie film, but they are also useful for organizing items such as photos and paper items.

  • 09 /13

    Muji's multipurpose Found Muji Boxes II collection offers several different shapes and sizes.

  • 10 /13

    Plastic boxes adapted from the common polypropylene transport box are light, tough, and durable, and can be used inside and outside.

  • 11 /13

    The acid-free paper boxes used for archiving documents are free from harmful acids and contaminants, and perfect for storing personal papers.

  • 12 /13
  • 13 /13

    Wooden boxes in the Muji collection have been adapted and crafted to match the retailer's range of storage products.

Muji's simple, "no-brand" aesthetic has always been inspired by overlooked utilitarian objects. Now, the company is carrying on the tradition with its Found Muji line, which is launching today in the U.S. with a new collection.

Found Muji was started in 2003 by designer Naoto Fukasawa, who also serves as an advisor on Muji's board. The products are sourced from around the world by Muji creative directors, then updated and repackaged for a limited-edition collection each season.

For Found Muji's U.S. debut, the New York flagship store is releasing Found Muji Boxes II, a series of industrial and utilitarian boxes that have found a chic second life as Muji-fied, multipurpose storage containers.

"It's our way of explaining the why and the how of the products in our store," U.S.A. Muji president Asako Shimazaki told a crowd of around 40 gathered at the Fifth Avenue store during the 2016 Fast Company Innovation Festival.. "We feel it's important for customers to know where our products originate from, their history and their story."

As with all collections in the Found Muji series, the boxes were discovered by the company's creative directors during their travels—this time to various factories and industrial spaces throughout the U.S. and Japan. For the box collection, Fukasawa and his colleagues focused on boxes traditionally used for production and manufacturing, since they are purpose-designed to be efficient, functional, and economical at a mass scale. Never intended for commercial use, the boxes are also unassuming and unadorned—true to the Muji aesthetic.

For the collection, Muji designers took inspiration from the found boxes and created their own versions. They focused on design details that would be useful for commercial products, such as the acid-free paper used for archival file boxes, or the single, secure clasp on a plastic storage box used for transport. The cylindrical fiber drums traditionally used for transporting dried food can be used as a toy box, and metal film canisters as storage for small paper goods.

The humble cooler, meanwhile, was chosen for its compact and efficient design: The single handle folds down for storage, and the lid is removable and reversible, with drink holders on the underside—just the right amount of thoughtfulness and utility to take its place among Muji's product line.

See photos of the new Found Muji Boxes II collection, and where they came from, in the slide show above.

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