What does MARLMARL mean?
MARLMARL is a play on the Japanese words marui & mawaru (丸い & 回る）which means round & rotate, and it simply described the shape of our first product: a 360° round baby bib.
Hello from Japan!
This is Michiyo and Kazuya and we're the Co-founders and Co-CEOs of MARLMARL.
What started as a small side project has taken us on an amazing ride to becoming the top D2C (direct-to-consumer) babies and kids gift brand in Japan. In 2012, we were both working in Tokyo’s fashion industry - Michiyo as a stylist and Kazuya in OEM - when Michiyo got the inspiration for the round bib.
At the time, babies and kids’ fashion was all about bright, pop colors and cute cartoon characters.
I felt that those designs reflected the parents’ wishes and fed into a dreamy fantasy.
I wanted to show my respect to children, consider them equal to adults, and give them more mature and stylish fashion choices.
So we set out on our own using a deeper, subtler, color palette and the children in our photoshoots were candidly photographed in their natural state (without the forced smiles and poses so prevalent in the industry at that time).
We respect tradition but we're not afraid to break it
In traditional Japanese gift-giving, the roles of giver, receiver, and user rotate all throughout life. From putting the thought into selecting just the right gift, to wrapping it respectfully and delivering it at the perfect time, through to the enjoyment of unwrapping and using the item, each step of the gifting process is done with reverence and care.
We wove these traditions into all of our products, making each of them worthy as one of life’s first gifts. Beautiful appearances is just the start, all of our products are thoughtfully designed with maximum utility- we call it “beautility.” Like our dining aprons that can withstand the messiest of meals while still looking fancy enough to be worn at formal occasions. And contrary to the single-season lifetime of most baby’s clothes, our products are designed for long-term use, long enough to outlast childhood!
From day 1, we’ve done things our way based on our beliefs. We’ve broken tradition in meaningful ways that will ideally have a wider impact on our society. This includes having one of the few female CEOs in Japan, being one of the first D2C brands on the Internet, and making sure that everything we do is in line with our brand’s purpose: Celebrate parenthood!
Raising children can be a challenge, so we wanted to bring joy into the small moments and celebrate parenthood.
Moving towards a society designed for parenthood, this is the long-term impact we want to have. How many times have you rushed to change your baby’s surprise diaper, only to find that there aren’t any facilities for it? Our vision is to eliminate those situations for future parents.
All of this sounds nice, but it took us over three months to sell our first batch of 600 bibs. We practically had to give them away!
It was tough in the beginning, but it was so much fun that it was easy to stay motivated. After years of working for others and bringing their visions to life, it was fun to finally create what I wanted. I felt like I was shaping my own world- the world of MARLMARL.
Yeah, it was a lot of fun seeing customers reacting to our products. I loved hearing their feedback, it really helped us grow the business. In two years, we went from selling 600 pieces in 3 months to selling 5,000 pieces every month. We just believed in the vision and kept going.
After ten years, we’ve become a household name in Japan, but it has always been our goal to become a global brand. We know it’s a big challenge, but we want to be one of the first Japanese startups to succeed internationally. We believe our products can speak for themselves, and as a brand, we feel like there is a lot we can contribute to parent-first design.