For importing the cult of Muji to the United States
Asako Shimazaki, the president of Muji USA, is shaping the way the 36-year-old brand is presented to American consumers. In 2015, the minimalist Japanese housewares brand opened a two-story flagship with a marquee address on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan and a sprawling outpost in Palo Alto. The opening of a store in Paramus, New Jersey, in 2016 will bring the total number of American locations to 12 (worldwide, there are more than 700). The timing couldn’t be better: Japanese writer Marie Kondo’s 2011 self-help tome The Life-Changing Art of Tidying Up remains a mainstay on U.S. best-seller lists, and with its meticulously organized shelves of storage containers, kitchenware, and bathroom accessories, Muji offers everything a reformed pack rat needs to keep clutter at bay. Shimazaki joined Ryohin Keikaku, Muji's parent company, in 1998 as manager of product development for Muji's health and beauty products. She maintained this position until 2013, developing more than 5,000 items from skincare products and travel items to a line of aromatherapy products including Muji's top-selling product globally, the Aroma Diffuser. Following this experience, Shimazaki went on to oversee Muji's second largest store in the world, Muji Ikebukuro, located in Tokyo. In 2014, Shimazaki moved to New York City to take on her current role.