Tiba + Marl was created in 2015 by London duo, Anna Tizard and Lydia Barron. Both Mothers, they spotted a gap in the market for trend inspired parent changing bags.
Their contemporary collection of bags are inspired by catwalks and street-style, with their award winning collection breaking the mould for modern parents who are seeking unisex designs that don’t compromise their sartorial choices.
TheIndustry.fashion speaks to founders Anna and Lydia about the last five years in business, inspirations in the fashion world, inclusivity, and the future for Tiba + Marl.
If we start at the beginning – tell me about you both! Prior to launching Tiba + Marl, what was your experience in fashion and retail?
We were retail veterans by the time we launched Tiba + Marl – wet met years ago in our first jobs – working at the Miss Selfridge Head Office as Junior Designer and Buyers Admin.
Over the years we worked at some great high/low brands including Urban Oufitters and Topshop, which in retrospect were perhaps in the glory days for retail – we got to travel immensely, expense dinners and samples and acquired great contacts. By the time we created Tiba + Marl we were Senior Buyers and Designers.
If we come to the business founding – it seems like it was born out of a fashionable necessity, tell me more about the first few months.
Really, it’s all a bit of blur as we had such young babies and toddlers when we launched and we worked so hard that we were permanently exhausted!!! Yet we were kind of running on some sort of buzzy non-stop adrenaline as despite the late nights we knew we were at the start of a really exciting time, and we were getting such great affirmation and feedback back about Tiba + Marl, that we knew we were onto something.
We had a waiting list of 1000 people before we launched our Elwood backpack, and had already been mentioned in Grazia as ‘the kind of thing carried by Mothers in London’s trendy Dalston and Peckham’ so we knew we were offering a product people wanted, and that carried us through.
Did you have any inspiration behind what you wanted from Tiba + Marl?
I think we always had a very clear image of what we wanted aesthetically the brand to look like; un-fussy, pared back, unisex. We loved (and still love) clean branding from Scandinavian brands like Acne, Woodwood, Arket – and we wanted the product to instil the same contemporary feel, we wanted to make bags for modern parents that don’t look like parental bags. We wanted to make sure that the products were super functional but looked like the kind of bag and backpack that you would have chosen to wear pre-kids.
Branded as unisex and modern, the products are attractive to a wide audience – including families who might not appear typical (e.g single parent, LGBT+), how does your brand appeal to these groups?
We want Tiba + Marl to be as inclusive as we can possibly be and we are so grateful for the support from the LGBT community. We genuinely love to celebrate modern life and family in all its unique forms. Our links have been organically nurtured, probably initially through friendship circles, Instagram and through casting projects. We undertook a project last year called ‘We are family’ where we did a shout out on our social channels for family model submissions, where our brief was ‘anything goes’ – we really wanted to find interesting families/ individuals who we felt represented our encompassing vibe and added their individual spirit and take on family.
Tiba + Marl has won quite a few awards, how does it feel to achieve the recognition from all sides of fashion?
It’s obviously a brilliant endorsement and an important sales driver too. The credibility that comes from award wins is particularly important in the baby category – we’re so proud that the best-selling Elwood backpack has won The Independent Best Buy award three years in a row now! But also word of mouth recommendation is so important for us too, we find that so many of our customers have bought a bag from us as they’ve seen their cool friends with one!
Ease and functionality is key – the balance between function and style is too – how do you strike the balance?
We knew from day one that we wanted to achieve the perfect balance of form and function. Although we aimed for a certain clean aesthetic, for us the product had to hold up when it came to design features and innovation. We knew as young parents ourselves what we needed in the range to be helpful to ourselves and customers, and we spent months and months researching and creating functionality that would make our brand stand out and become a must-have.
And vegan materials too! What are you commitments as a brand to creating a sustainable future?
We were committed to using vegan materials from the outset, when we launched Tiba + Marl. We were so lucky to have great contacts where we knew we were bringing incredible vegan materials to the market that looked nothing like ‘fake leather’ (as it was known at the time).
Times and opinions have changed so quickly, and whilst a lot of brand woke, we were already awake and using the best quality animal-friendly products. To add to this, we have spent a long time ensuring that it was not just our products that had a conscience – we have developed fully eco packaging (including sourcing incredible polybags that can be melted in hot water) and we donate a proportion of our monthly profits to an UK carbon offsetting initiative.
We spent ages creating our Eco collection, in alliance with Selfridges, where all the bags and linings were created using 100% recycled RPET plastic giving a second life to deadstock clothing and plastic water bottles. We are committed to increasing our Eco range, and becoming as Planet friendly as possible.
You are stocked by some of the UK’s biggest players – including an exclusive collaborative collection with Selfridges, how did this come about?
We have been so lucky to have the support of Selfridges from the start of our brand. The buyers are amazing and we love working with them, especially in developing exclusive styles for them. It’s a real honour to work with them, their recent Planet Earth conscious initiatives have been ground-breaking and a real inspiration for how to redirect your brand in a more Eco-friendly way, whilst still remaining aspirational and ultimately stylish without having to make compromises.
How do you think the UK reacts to new innovative products, in terms of young parenting fashion?
We feel so lucky to have launched when we did. We really feel we were ‘right time, right place, right product’ – the whole young parenting product offer needed a bit of disruption and a shake up! We found that new, young, cool parents were desperate for products (not just accessories) that reflected their style – and we felt there was such an obvious gap in the market when we launched.
We couldn’t believe how under-represented certain groups (dads, gay parents, single parents, POC, etc) were in this area, and how there was such a lack of contemporary styling or there was such huge gender stereotypes everywhere (pink for a girl, blue for a boy). We knew if we followed our natural leaning towards street/sportswear/unisex inspired styling and created products that we were onto something.
Did you feel any impact from COVID-19? Supply chain? Stockists refusing stock?
Clearly no business was really prepared for a situation like COVID. The early days back at the beginning of Spring were really worrying times for us, I’m sure any brand would say the same. We had to completely rewire how we ran the brand from a logistical point of view.
We feel fortunate that apart from a few slow weeks at the beginning of the pandemic, our sales have continued on the growth trajectory that we were seeing pre-covid at the beginning of 2020, especially at direct level from our website.
There have been glitches at wholesale, like you have said – for example we had spent a lot of time and money picking an order for a luxury retailer in the Middle East, that had required a certificate of origin and a visit to Chamber of Commerce, only for the whole order to be cancelled due to COVID. It has since been reinstated and any wholesale lulls during the dark early days seem to now have levelled out and particularly at the more luxury level we are receiving more re-orders than ever.
It’s taught us that life, and business life, is so unpredictable. We feel fortunate to be in a sector where our customers are celebrating a special period in their life and they are happy to invest in a product that they feel confident will not only be functional and helpful but has multiple end uses (gym bag, weekend bag, work bag) and can be reincarnated as their everyday bag when their baby is out of nappies, so it’s a long-term sustainable purchase.
Where next for Tiba + Marl?
We are always working behind the scenes plotting new products, collaborations and innovations! We are introducing a new Eco collection called ‘Concept’ in January that is a new, unisex, utilitarian range of Bags and accessories that can be customised to create your ideal parenting accessory.
We also have a super exciting partnership with an iconic 90’s brand launching in Spring 2021, but for now our lips are sealed!