Meet Muriel Salimin, founder, creative director, and visionary behind MUUR. Throughout her career, she has worked with a diverse portfolio of renowned brands. From Sean John to Macy’s, she has designed for some of the most popular companies. Muriel founded MUUR in 2018, with the vision of bringing her passion for design, world travel, and economic empowerment to consumers and artisans alike.
In this first installment of Behind MUUR, Muriel sat down to talk about her illustrious career, the genesis of MUUR, and what inspires her in a broad sense. Born and raised in the Netherlands with roots stretching to Suriname and Indonesia, Muriel’s story spans the globe and is routinely informed by beauty and compassion, the same principles that drive every aspect of MUUR.
Q: Tell us about your background. Where did you grow up? And how did you end up in New York City?
MS: I was born and raised in The Netherlands. My parents are from Suriname, which used to be a Dutch colony. They both moved to The Netherlands for better opportunities. I was born in The Hague, grew up in that area , and moved to Amsterdam to attend Fashion school. My graduation project was inspired by hip-hop music and culture , and this is where my interest for New York started. At that time the streetwear clothing brands were very popular, but they were hard to get in Europe. It was my dream to work for one of these brands.
After graduating from fashion school, I was offered a full time job as a menswear designer at a denim company in the Amsterdam area, but I decided not to do it and to try my luck in New York. I figured if I didn’t do it then, I would probably get ‘stuck’ in the workforce right away.
I decided to take the leap and give it a try. I created my portfolio and went to New York a few times to look for work. It was very difficult, since I needed a work visa, but I met some amazing people, who introduced me to valuable connections in the industry. They referred to me as , “...that girl from Amsterdam! ” A lot of them are still my friends to this day! I’m very grateful for them. I even ended up working for one of them years later.
Eventually, Pepe Jeans took a chance on me and I moved to New York in 2000!
Q: You’ve had a full and interesting career in design and fashion. Can you tell us about the highlights?
MS: Moving to New York was the best thing I could have done. I met so many people and working in the fashion industry was amazing. My time working as a menswear designer at Sean John was definitely one of the highlights. The design team was a close-knit group, we developed great collections and working with Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs was a unique experience.
After that, I moved on to Macy’s which was a very different, but great experience. It was a more corporate environment where I was exposed to different parts of the business. Overtime, I grew into different roles, from Designer to ultimately a Research and Development Director. At that time I traveled to Europe and Asia a lot which opened a whole new world of inspiration.
I eventually ended up at EFM (Engineered For Motion), a menswear brand, where I found the perfect balance between creativity, business, and having a personal connection with the team, who have become close friends.
Q: Where did the idea of starting MUUR come from? What was the inspiration?
MS: During my business travels overseas, I met people that work in the factories and I always connected and worked so well with them. Around 2012, I also started to go on a few mission trips with my church. We conducted classes where we helped business owners or people that wanted to start their own business. It was eye -opening how we can easily help people with our knowledge, which for them is so valuable. Just helping them with creating a budget sheet was a big help. Whether it was for a coffee shop they wanted to start or how to expand their restaurant, for example.
I wanted to see how I could help and started to look for products made by hand. By selling them in the States, I hoped to make consumers more aware of where their products come from and how to support artisans and their families directly.
Q: Why menswear?
MS: I’ve always designed and had an interest in menswear . It was an intriguing category of fashion since there were less options for men when I started. That has significantly changed in the last few years, which is good for the industry.
Q: What inspires you in a broad sense?
MS: Traveling. Everyone should travel as much as they can, especially abroad. Growing up in The Netherlands, which is a small country, it was relatively easy to visit the other countries in Europe.
Later on traveling to Asia definitely broadened my views. It’s so important to experience other cultures and meet different people. There are still so many people who have never been outside of the country. There are so many opportunities these days.
If I wasn’t working in fashion I probably would have worked in the travel industry. When we were young my family always went to Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam to pick up or drop off people traveling to and from Suriname. It was always a big event, it was really fascinating to me.
Besides traveling for work and going back to The Netherlands on a regular basis, I started traveling to run marathons. Exploring new places with friends this way has been really wonderful.
Q: More specifically, what inspires your designs for MUUR?
MS: Simplicity, functionality, and quality. It has to feel like a special piece that was created just for you.
Q: Why did you begin with artisans in Indonesia? Do you plan to expand to other artisans and/or countries?
MS: I was open to any developing country. As long as we can help people, so they can sustain themselves. My dad travels to Indonesia on a regular basis and I had been there before. The family roots from my dad’s side go back there, even though we don’t have much information. My grandparents were raised in an orphanage in Suriname. We did find out that my great-grandparents are from Bandung in Indonesia, which is the same area where the artisans I ended up working with are from. It could not have been better than that. I discovered them at a trade show where they showcased their products.
I would love to explore other countries though, but we’ll see.
Q: Your career has brought you all around the world, with extensive travel under your belt, do you have any insider tips for traveling more comfortably?
MS: Comfortable shoes, like sneakers that you can easily take off. Especially going through security, when on the plane , and walking long distances at some airports. Sometimes I see women in high heels, I just don’t understand. Bring extra socks or slippers for on the plane as well as a scarf or a sweatshirt, since it can be chilly.
When you have long layovers, some airports have relaxing rooms with massage chairs and other comforts for free. Not everyone always knows about these. Hong Kong and Seoul have them!
Q: What are the top five places you’ve visited?
MS: Indonesia, Cambodia, Cuba, Philippines, and Valencia.
Q: What is your dream destination?
MS: I don’t think I have one in particular. I enjoy visiting new places. This year it will be South Africa for a race!
Q: How do you see MUUR growing and expanding?
MS: I would like to offer a variety of products that are suitable for travel and being on the go while at the same time supporting artisans from various countries.
Q: What do you hope people gain or feel in choosing to purchase a MUUR, artisan-made product?
MS: Make the consumer aware that there are people behind the products that they purchase.
I would like them to know that people are putting their soul and passion into these products and that every piece is unique. By simply purchasing an artisan-made product, we can help someone sustain themselves and their family.