The Motherhouse Story Part 3: Overcoming Setbacks
Bringing Motherhouse To A New Stage
Resisting the urge to run away, Eriko set out to face the challenge that awaited her yet again. She needed to establish an extremely reliable production system in Bangladesh as that was the biggest hurdle that the Motherhouse brand had at that moment in time. Firstly, Eriko knew that she needed a local team member who could work full-time in Bangladesh. She had enough of being betrayed.
Eriko's last hope was contacting Alif, the director of a designer training school in Bangladesh who had also worked for 10 years as an export manager in a major leather factory. She knew that he would make a great partner for Motherhouse, and with that thought in mind, she made several trips and spent long hours each day convincing him of the partnership until he finally signed the contract.
Leveraging on Alif's knowledge of bag manufacturers in the industry, he assisted in sourcing for the best partner factories in terms of technology, finances and the reliability of team members. Eventually, Eriko and her team decided on a factory with a pattern maker named Soel, who was said to have the best skill amongst the rest of the nation.
Soel was a crafter who hated foreign buyers. Back and forth, Eriko and Soel communicated their sincerest feelings and the former tried her best to convey the essence of Motherhouse through their conversations. Ultimately, they managed to design a production system that worked for the brand.
Rough sketches by Eriko and Alif > Pattern making by Soel > Material procurement by Alif > Production by Soel's factory > Quality Control by Alif
The Battle Against Jute
The main handicap of jute was that it paled in comparison to the texture and luxury of leather. Eriko needed to create a bag that could never be done with leather, and only with jute.
She set out by cutting a metre of jute dough and tried various experiments with it — stretching, crumpling, washing etc. She spent many days in the factory, staring at the jute fabric from dawn till dusk. Eriko did not want to be confined within the norms of bag manufacturing. Instead, she desired to take on the challenge of creating an entirely new design that capitalised on the unique texture of jute.
In an incredibly short amount of time, dozens of samples were formed based on Eriko's sketches. All of them were brought back to Japan, where buyers gave constructive feedback through group interviews and discussions.
Then, in January 2007, Eriko and her team took the samples back to Bangladesh and began the final detailing process. In February 2007, the team narrowed down the samples to 9 bags (available in 5 colours) and 5 accessories, and production commenced.
On March 9 2007, the first anniversary of the brand's founding, a new Motherhouse was reborn with new products.
To Our Customers, With Gratitude
On the evening of March 10 2007, a guest event was held to commemorate Motherhouse's first birthday. It was an opportunity for the brand to inform their supportive customers about recent activities and developments. The team conveyed the backstory of the brand, covering the numerous betrayals faced by the team in Bangladesh and the discovery of new, trustworthy partners. Customers listened attentively and nodded their heads in agreements, all while tears started building up in Eriko's eyes.
With anticipation and anxiety in her heart, the time had finally come for Eriko to reveal Motherhouse's new products. "Ladies and gentlemen, we are proud to announce the Spring Collection 2007 for Motherhouse! Look right over there!" The opening of a curtain unveiled a store, where customers started entering one by one, trying on the selection of bags on their shoulders, and looking at themselves in the mirrors to match the products with their outfits. The scene that unfolded before the Motherhouse team's eyes was just like a shopping experience that one would imagine occurring in a department store.
Customers would go up to Eriko saying, "The products look better!", "It's awesome!", "Cool", "Cute", and more. Flashing back to the agonising days of product development for the renewal of the brand, Eriko's chest was full.
Continue on to Part 4.
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