Towel With Further Options by NIIMI


Towel With Further Options by Japanese designers NIIMI is designed to be recycled as a bath-mat and a cleaning cloth as it wears out.

The concept, by Takuya and Yuki Niimi, references the Japanese tradition of cutting up old yukata (traditional Japanese bathing clothes) to make nappies or floor cloths.

The aim is to extend the useful life of the towelling once the fabric has become old and worn.

The grid-like pattern woven into the towelling acts as a marker for cutting square modules, helping the consumer to imagine future uses.

The design fits easily into the usual production process for towels, where a washcloth is made from a larger piece of towelling by dividing it into squares.

The project was awarded the Gold Prize by the judges of the Muji Award 02 (the award was announced in December last year but we've only just got images large enough to publish).

Here are the citations from the judges of the Muji Award:


NIIMI [Takuya Niimi/Yuki Niimi] (Japan)

This bath towel moves your mind toward further uses of the product. Towels take everyday dirt and gradually become damaged. In accordance with such changes, you can downsize the towel with "further options" from a bath towel to a bath mat, and then to a floor cloth and dust cloth.

The towel has a vertical and horizontal textured surface that does not produce pile-fabric waste when cut with scissors. The lines act as a marker for cutting and form square modules that let you imagine other uses, encouraging you to re-use it

Although the winning entry for the Gold Prize may not appear to be new if you know the textile production process, it made me RE-think something. Japanese people used to re-use yukata for diapers or floor cloths.

Kazuko Koike (Muji adviser, Creative Director)

Many products on the market are in completed form when purchased, and you just want to use it for as long as possible. This towel, however, gradually fits more comfortably in your hands and on your body after being washed many times and, some day in the future, might be divided into smaller pieces for use as a washcloth or even a floor cloth. This entry lets me imagine the passing of time. New and convenient products are created everyday, but we also have a strong desire to live simply without increasing our belongings.

Takashi Sugimoto (MUJI adviser, Interior Designer)

The Gold Prize bath towel is very clever. You can use it first as a towel, and then as a bathroom rug when it becomes a little rough, and finally even as a floor cloth. The towel perfectly applied this natural cycle into its design. Using the idea of recycling, which used to be seen in the re-use of kimono back in the Edo period, was also beautiful as a response to the award theme.

Kenya Hara (Muji adviser, Graphic designer)

Gold Prize

The Gold Prize towel was highly praised by Muji members. They sure have an intimate knowledge of the production process of towels; a washcloth for example is made from a large piece of towel by dividing it into smaller pieces. Therefore, this idea fits easily into the production process. Muji products value efficiency in the production process, so this idea is superior to many other entries, which represented excellent ideas but were difficult to produce.

Naoto Fukasawa (Muji adviser, product designer)

Posted on Wednesday February 27th 2008 at 9:40 am by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • nyc

    Very poetic. It is a kind of adaptive minimalism, really.
    Adaptive minimalism.. Why isn’t that a talked-about catagory in design?

    Beautifully done.

  • Simply perfect… I love them. Well done guys!

  • Arch

    Very economical, i want to buy one. i just hope its very affordable too. how much does it sell?

  • Rich

    So, Japanese folk (and incidentally my mother, grandmother etc) have been cutting up old towels for generations.
    Why didn’t they get the award for their thoughtfulness?
    I see the design merit in this product, but can’t see why it’s worthy of a prize when it’s such a commonly achieved outcome without needing to purchase this particular product.

  • MIke

    Rich, my thoughts exactly! People really need guidelines to cut up an old towel? I fail to see the design merit. I can buy a towel with a grid pattern at wal-mart. I use old t-shirts to wash my car, where’s my award?

  • Joe

    Hi Mike, I think u will be surprise to know that some pple can’t cut in a straight line like me! :)

    I’ve been cutting up old towels and sometimes i end up with less than perfect rectangles or squares. Sometimes I cut up more than I need and sometimes less. And becoz I dun exactly plan ahead when I cut, more often than not I get funky shaped leftovers that I throw away that contributes to pile fabric waste.

    So this towel is fantastic as it is pre-divided into grids. If u look carefully, the smallest rectangle is the ideal size for a hand towel. 4 such rectangles makes the perfect size for a floor rug. This towel simplifies the act of cutting up a cloth. No more fucky shapes, no more crooked lines, no thinking required, just cut away. That is the beauty of this towel, a design that caters to less than perfect human like me who can’t cut in a straight line and does know how to plan!

    I assume u are american since u mention wal-mart? I lived in both USA and Japan for a while and both countries have very different definition of aesthetics. It very hard for Americans to understand the Japanese Muji philosphy of aesthetics. Muji is never about being spectacular, being outstanding or different, its about blending effortlessly into a person’s behaviour and environment.

    Try sending in your old t-shirt to next year’s Muji Award and see if u win.

  • Cynick

    Great idea…Muji will make millions off of it…and the designer gets a relatively small bursary.

    I wonder how Fukasawa and Morrison feel about Muji’s no-royalty mandate, and if they would have appreciated the same type of arrangement for one of their early brilliant ideas..

    Oh wait…Muji is paying their celebrity judges a boatload more than they pay the winning young designers..

  • very good idea of grid-like pattern towels……. this will make easy to use old towels for other uses.

  • Its really unique idea I will definitely try this one..:)