How Tiba + Marl made changing bags fashionable – and a commercial success
Tiba + Marl was launched in 2015 by London duo Anna Tizard and Lydia Barron who saw a gap in the market for trendy, contemporary and cool changing bags for mothers and dads. Their cleverly designed, functional and mostly unisex bags quickly became a hit with style-conscious parents up and down the country and are now stocked in high profile accounts such as Selfridges, Farfetch, Alex & Alexa, accumulating a growing fanbase across the world. They tell FashionUnited how they turned their brand into one of the hottest must-have accessory labels on the market and their plans going forward.
What is your background and how did the idea for Tiba + Marl come about?
Anna Tizard: Lydia and I have worked in the fashion industry for over 20 years. We first met when we both worked at Miss Selfridge – Lydia as a footwear and accessories designer and myself as a buyer. When we both became mothers we were incredibly frustrated at the lack of decent parent changing bags and realised there was a huge gap in the market for a functional yet stylish brand for modern parents.
How would you describe the DNA of Tiba + Marl?
Lydia Barron: We pride ourselves on being fashion forward and not being afraid to be different; we often take risks with our designs and that’s what makes us stand apart from our competitors. It’s also important to us that we are a truly unisex brand, so often it is the dads that end up carrying the baby bag and we were the first to design changing bags that dads were proud to carry, too. We want to be an inclusive brand that represents modern parenthood – something we were so passionate to get across in our new “We Are Family” campaign.
What’s the story behind the name?
AT: The brand name is an anagram of both of our surnames and our children’s names. We deliberately wanted the name to be abstract but at the same time mean something to us. All of our bags are named after our kids or family members and our best-selling Miko bumbag is named after a friend’s dog.
When you first launched to market you presented a very fresh concept of what changing bags mean, and you continue to push the boundaries. How important is this aspect to your brand ethos?
LB: Pushing the boundaries is absolutely what Tiba + Marl stands for. We want to be the first to try new things and set trends. We are just launching our new s/s 19 collection and there are some very bold designs. We believe this is why our customers choose us and they look to us for inspiration. We’re definitely more than just a changing bag brand; people tend to use the bags way beyond the nappy years as they are just great bags. We are often featured in the fashion mags alongside amazing fashion labels and we are increasingly selling bags to people who are looking to use them for work, the gym, or weekends away. We also like to think there is a sense of community around the brand. We’ve heard some amazing stories about mums who have made friends because they both had a T+M bag – they knew they would get on and have something in common!
How has the company evolved? What have been the biggest milestones so far?
AT: In the early days, Lydia and I had to do everything ourselves and as we weren’t earning any money we couldn’t afford childcare so had to juggle meetings, tradeshows and designing with the kids in tow. Now we have a team of 7 people who are all experts in their fields, meaning Lydia and I can focus on designing and setting the brand vision for the future.
LB: I think one of the biggest milestones for us has to be getting the listing with Selfridges and working with them to create an exclusive collection each season. On a practical level, getting our own office in the amazing Huckletree West has been a game changer for us as it’s given the whole team a physical hub and is a great space for getting creative and throwing around ideas.
Your brand has grown very rapidly. How did you achieve that? What was / is your marketing strategy?
AT: We were lucky in that our timing was good when we launched. We had identified a genuine gap in the market and there was a definite audience for our brand. Our marketing strategy is very much about staying true to our brand identity. We carefully select partners, everything from wholesalers to influencers, that mirror our brand identity and ethos – it’s meant we’ve had to make some difficult decisions but we always stayed true to the original brand vision.
LB: Recognising the value of social media, and in particular Instagram, has been critical for us. We made sure we had connections with the right people and developed relationships so we had some very influential brand advocates from the beginning. Fortunately a lot of influencers/ stylists and journalists discovered us quite early in our journey, and have spread the message out amongst their followers and readers, which we are so grateful for.
Apart from clever marketing, what do you attribute your success so far to?
AT: So many of our sales have come from word of mouth referral between mums. We owe so much to all our brilliant customers who are always so keen to share the T+M love. We get a lot of models, bloggers, celebs etc. wearing our bags, which has spread the word about the brand very quickly and has particularly captured the attention of trend-aware Instagram users. We’ve also had quite a few male celebrities wear our bags too; Tom Hardy, the actor, has a silver backpack and we’ve had various sports stars and musicians papped with their T+Ms, which has spread the word to Dads.
Who is your target market in terms of consumers?
LB: People who love fashion, like to forge out their own style and don’t want to lose their identity when they become a parent.
What are your core products, and which styles have been the most successful to date?
LB: We consider our backpacks to be our signature style given we were the first to design a backpack as a parent changing bag. The multi award-winning black Elwood has been our best seller since its launch in 2015.
Are e-commerce and wholesale your primary sales channels? Is one channel more important than others?
LB: For new brands in particular, wholesale is so important to build your brand’s credentials. We have built such lovely relationships with stockists which has enabled us to reach a much wider audience. Obviously, driving e-commerce on the website is a big focus for us. It also allows us to provide a richer brand experience and the opportunity to showcase different types of content.
Are you still looking to develop the wholesale side?
LB: We have been really selective about who we work with, ensuring the right brand match, and we are super proud of our UK wholesale portfolio which includes Selfridges, Farfetch, Alex & Alexa and Childrensalon. We are so excited to be launching soon in Harvey Nichols, too. For us, international wholesale is a big opportunity – we work with Shopbop in the US and The Iconic in Australia, which are big markets for us.
Do you plan to open any own stores at some point?
AT: I mean, it would be amazing, so this is not something we’ve ruled out. Pop-ups in the right places are really interesting, too.
The maternity / accessory and generally the lifestyle and retail markets are very competitive. How do you ensure you stay relevant and ‘cool’?
LB: We’ve had to learn not to be scared to take risks and not be worried about being different! We both live and breathe fashion, so following trends – going to shows, visiting museums and cool places – is part of our daily lives anyway.
You have done a number of high-profile collaborations – are you planning more?
AT: Working with like-minded brands is a smart way of not only building your audience, but also creating products that you would genuinely like to buy! Even though we are and always will be a parent changing bag brand, we love the idea of creating a lifestyle shop / hub for cool, modern parents and also a community.
We are about to launch a collection of limited-edition sheepskin buggy liners with Binibamba, which is really exciting. The liners have been specifically designed to complement the signature Tiba + Marl monochrome colour palette.
Do you have a dream customer?
AT: Meghan Markle would be the dream! Like us, she is not afraid to take risks with her style and we love everything she represents – style, modernity, diversity. We also love Pernille Teisbaek – so cool, boysy – love how she mixes labels such as Vetements, Ganni and Adidas.
What are your plans for the brand?
LB: We have so many cool ideas, the challenge is to decide which ones to run with. We recently branched out into beauty with the launch of a beauty range in collaboration with Honest Skincare and are so proud that the collection was so well received. We’re about to launch our limited-edition collection with Binibamba and there will definitely be more collaborations in the future, I’m sure.
What is your biggest challenge in terms of running your business?
AT: Probably dealing with the back of house and financial side of things. Both Lydia and I are naturally creative people and whereas we did both come from a commercial background also, we didn’t have the full breadth of experience needed to run the business side of things. When you run your own business, you have to learn so much on the go, we have definitely made a few mistakes along the way, but have learnt from them and now know how to avoid them in the future.
Where do you see the biggest development opportunity for your business?
LB: For us, it would be international expansion – markets that we haven’t really tapped into yet in the Far East and Asia represent a big opportunity.
Photo credit: Tiba + Marl