Minimalist chic or Kim Jong-il cosplay?

As summer starts to weigh down on the people of Japan, the Muji Labo arm of fashion giant Muji has come out with a new collection of basics to suit all ages, genders and body types.

Designed to keep people cool in the summer heat, these new coordinates sound like they ought to be the fashion hit of the season, only there’s one problem. People have been likening the garments to clothes worn by people living in a communist dictatorship.

Our Japanese-language reporter Masanuki Sunakoma decided to buy the two-piece set online to see if all the claims that the outfit looked like a Mao suit had any truth to them.

Muji makes no mention of any Mao-suit resemblance, simply calling the outfit “Easy To Dry Vertical and Horizontal Stretch UV-Cut Open Collar Shirt and Pants”.

What makes it so stretchy and quick-drying is the material, which contains 86 percent nylon and 14 percent polyurethane.

The shirt and pants come in a variety of colours, but seeing as the models on the Muji site were pictured wearing the black version, that’s what Masanuki opted for too. On the site, he could see the urban minimalist look Muji were aiming for, but in real-life the garments had less “zen chic” appeal and more “congratulations on your factory assignment” vibes.

Still, Muji’s design philosophy is all about cutting out extra frills and unnecessary features, stripping their clothes right down to the basics. After putting the outfit on, Masanuki noticed how the boxy silhouette and short hemline on the pants could be likened to the Mao suit worn by communist leaders. However, the cut was a lot looser, plus the sleeves a lot shorter, making it look more like Mao suit loungewear.

Since the top and pants were released in June, online buzz surrounding the garments have been likening them to everything but the everyday basics they were intended to be.

“This looks like something you’d see in North Korea.”
“I suppose it’s good for cosplaying as Kim Jong-il or Jackie Chan?”
“When I saw a photo of the garments pop up on my timeline I thought it was a news story about North Korea.”
“The first thought that came to my mind was ‘Khmer Rouge’.”
“So they’re creating prisoner clothing now?”
“Omg can you imagine the confused looks you’d get from people if you wore this outside?”

When Masanuki looked at himself in the mirror, instead of seeing the cold, threatening look of a dictator he saw the tired, overworked look of a prisoner confined to a labour camp.

The roomy, oversized style did offer a lot of freedom of movement, though, which makes it suitable for practicing tai chi or enjoying casual jaunts out at the beach.

Just be careful to make sure your friends don’t decide to wear the same outfit as you, or else people might think you’ve escaped from a labour camp or joined a bizarre cult.

Masanuki isn’t one to do things by halves, so he decided to compare Muji’s communist-esque basics with “North Korean Basics“, a.k.a. a Mao suit cosplay costume.

The cosplay outfit came with a cap and shoulder pads, and three pockets on the shirt. For some reason that made it look a little more authoritarian so that the Muji basics looked even more like the slouchy, heavily worn clothes of a prisoner.

After comparing the two outfits, Masanuki decided it was a bit of a stretch to liken the Muji basics to the suit of a communist dictator.

But hey, if you’re confident walking out of the house looking like a prisoner from a labour camp, go for it.

If Muji needs someone to create their next ad campaign, Masanuki has the vision and the skills to make it unforgettable.

The Muji shirt is available online for 5,990 yen (US$55.81) while the pants retail for 6,990 yen. According to Muji Labo, they’ll be releasing a new set of basics every month for at least a year so you can acquire a whole wardrobe of minimalist looks.

If you want to look like a communist dictator, though, Uniqlo has the outfit you’ve been looking for.

Photos © SoraNews24
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[ Read in Japanese ]