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Minimalist ShoppingShopping for Meaning
Choi Hyowon  |
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승인 2018.12.04  11:22:10
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Less is more. The minimalist effect has put an end to the meaningless use of money in shopping. Minimalism is no longer a slowly prevailing concept to lifestyle. It has, therefore, influenced many modern lives by encouraging the new perspective of shopping for simplicity. This has inspired many companies to start marketing their products based on the minimalism ideology. Recently, the startup Brandless has proven that this new concept of shopping is bankable by opening their first pop-up shop in New York. This raises the question: what is it about minimalist shopping that is so appealing?

Minimalist shopping is becoming more popular with its new perspective on value and expense. Although the idea of customers only shopping for their needs has been around for a while, there has not been an abundance of brands which specifically applied this lifestyle as a marketing strategy. Brandless, Muji and No Brand are some examples of these companies They all target the core concerns and style of shopping of millennials. However, the final goal of minimalist shoppers does not end at quality over quantity. It also takes into consideration of the social awareness of the environment and overpopulation.
▲ Brandless New York Pop-up. Provided by Fashion Network

Taking A Closer Look at Minimalism 

Minimalism was first introduced as a design movement in the late 1960s. It valued expressing the bare essential elements and took away unnecessary features. Taking this spirit to real life, minimalist lifestyles have been pursued by certain parts of society ever since. A minimalist pursues freedom from the stress of glamorization for show and focuses on increasing self-awareness. To achieve this, minimizing consumption is the key. However, this concept of minimizing shopping expenses has not just affected minimalists themselves groups as well. Indeed, the idea of accentuating simplicity over consumerism has been embraced by a number of entrepreneurs. 

Although minimalism has had an impact on the philosophy behind some companies, this does not mean that companies have the exact same ideologies. The companies are built on different aspects of minimalism. Muji, a Japanese retail company, sells a variety of consumer goods that pursue simplicity. According to an interview from Bangkok Post , Naoto Fukasawa, the design advisor of Muji, said, “The concept of Muji is simplicity, reasonable prices and environmental friendliness.” It takes away any unnecessary decorations and satisfies the real needs of customers rather than aesthetically pleasing them. 

Inspired by the concept of Muji, Brandless has found its own way of translating minimalism. Tina Sharkey, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Brandless, thought that the modern way of consuming does not make any sense. Instead of paying the price for a certain name, she decided to take away the brand tax and charge three dollars for every product sold online. It has only been a little over a year that this startup started yet it has received 240 million dollars from SoftBank’s Vision Fund to beat Amazon. This proves that Sharkey was able to point out the flaw in the modern economy and convince people to trust her company and buy her products. 

What Is It with Minimalism?

It is true that minimalism appeals to the millennials who pursue simplicity and sensible price. However, why are these factors so appealing? Millennials are the first generation to be born after the technological revolution. Mobility has become the norm in living a stable life. Especially after Wi-Fi zones became wide spread, places such as cafés have become new office spaces. Therefore, having a designated space for working at home became relatively less favorable. Also, this is the generation that is most conscious of environmental health. As, Rush Limbaugh, an American radio talk show host, said, ”Millennials value experience over the ownership of goods.”

The population of the millennial generation is bigger than that of the baby boomers, but the former generation has smaller wallets than does the latter generation according to the Robin Report . They would also rent rather than spend money on a product that is not completely necessary to buy. Thus, it would be fair to say that they cherish experience over material goods. That is why, when Sharkey said, “Brandless was really invented with the idea of connecting people around the most basic things,” and, “Better should not have to cost more,” struck at the core of understanding the current generation. Her mindset and that of other corporations are the reasons for the successes. 

This idea of selling products with no brand tax is also trending in Korea. E-mart has released No Brand, which has a similar ideology behind Brandless. According to the Korea JoongAng Daily , No Brand is gaining in popularity due to customers trying to save money in the troubled economy. However, the popularity is not solely due to financial benefits. Customers in Korea are also doubting the necessity of paying extra money for brands when the products practically have the same features. The tagline of No Brand is “It is not about the brand. It is about the consumer” and this has truly made a mark on Korean consumers’ minds.

▲ No Brand store. Provided by Hilkorea

Although it is a trending phenomenon, minimalism is not necessarily entirely positive. Of course, the new generation prefers to be minimalists when it comes to shopping since this means that they are practical and careful about the choices they make. However, simultaneously this desire shows how difficult it is to live in the current economy. Perhaps, the trend has appeared not by the choice of the millennials but because of the structural rigidity of society. Minimalism can also be an explanation for why this generation has cultural trends like You Only Live Once (YOLO). 


Trends come and go. However, minimalist shopping is clearly a way to consume more wisely and appreciate what one has. The positive aspects regarding this trend deserve attention and they are worth investigating further in order to come up with stronger solutions to the financial and social problems that will be faced in the future.  

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