Eriko Yamaguch’s Spirit Still Lives in the Brand
Updated: Jan 10
July 2, 2022
Motherhouse is a Japanese fashion brand that has strong capacity of product design and planning, manufacturing, and quality guidance in developing countries, as well as selling their products in developed countries. The brand originally started in Bangladesh in 2006, and now expanded in a total of six countries; Myanmar, Indonesia, Nepal, India, and Sri Lanka now. Products made in these countries are marketed in Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore.
Believing in the potential of developing countries, Eriko Yamaguchi, the founder of Motherhouse, proceeds with a business based on such philosophy that "we spotlight the potential of developing countries through our products to establish an international brand. " Yamaguchi's own experience forms the company's philosophy, which permeated employees and customers.
Life Full of Ups and Downs
Eriko Yamaguchi is the CEO of Motherhouse. Her life is full of ups and downs. She was bullied in elementary school. After overcoming bullying, she encountered Judo in junior high school. She commuted to high school without a women’s Judo club so that she practiced Judo with a men Judo player. She became Japan’s top-class Judo player of women.
About three months after retiring from the club, she passed the entrance exam of the Keio University, one of the famous Japanese universities. When she was a student, she experienced an internship at an international institution in Washington D.C. in the US.
She wondered how people who have not been to developing countries, nor known the reality, can make the policies for them. So she decided to go to Bangladesh, one of the poorest countries in Asia.
She relized how severe the local situation was and found that the way to save developing countries was to do work with local people with the mind-set of “confidence and pride.” The products made under that minds would surely attract the customers in developed countries.
She also believed confidence and pride should be promoted as a business, not as a good will of NGOs. By doing business, manufacturers could make their goals clear and there would be more opportunities for customers in developed countries to get to know them.
Eventually, she came across a natural fiber called Jute in Bangladesh. Jute is an environmentally-friendly material that absorbs carbon dioxide and returns to the soil after it is discarded. However, sinsce Jute had been only used as an agricultural bags, it was difficult for local people and people in a developed country to accept the potential of Jute business. She couldn’t sell her products even after sophisticated Jute product was completed.
In addition, she was betrayed by fellow manufacturers. After overcoming various obstacles, finally, Yamaguchi could came up with Motherhouse, being established as a Japanese brand.
Eriko’s Spirit Around the World
In the global businesses, we often see the difference in working culture between Japan and developing countries. At Motherhouse, too, there once happend that some local employees chose not to go to work to demonstrait their dissatisfaction with salary cut-back.
On the next day of one-day strike, the Japanese staffs started sincere discussion with the local employees. As a result, the salary system was put back. The Japanese staffs in the developing countries have continued to communicate with the local employees, by holding morning meetings, on the face-to-face basis and looking back daily performance. There has been an environment in which Japanese and local staffs consider each other as business partners on the same boat.
The brand provides great company benefits such as medical checkups in its factory. According to the Motherhouse's blog written by a Japanese staff stationed in Bangladesh, the company has arranged for COVID-19 vaccination and all the local employees have already completed the vaccinations.
In addition, they are actively promoting Anniversary Leave, Maternity Leave and Paternity Leave for empleyees to work in good health. To promote friendly communication among employees, there are columns of workers’ voices on their website. Those who have newly entered to Motherhouse often point out that there is an environment they can feel comfortable autonomy. This is because all employees share the company's philosophy and purpose of business.
Maybe it is difficult thing for a large company to do this. Not only pursuing profits but also having time to think about the uniqueness of Motherhouse seems create the strength of Motherhouse. They are creating a working environments and conditions by themselves so that employees are able to have confidence and pride in their career.
Leather Postcard Reflected Her Spirit
Motherhouse does not stop their business in fashion. There is a unique product of a Leather Postcard. When it comes to postcards, people can only imagine the one made of paper. However, the product is made of material called tannin leather that allows you to write letters.
Marketers of Motherhouse develop a leather to be written letters by processing the back side of the leather.
The concept of this unique postcard is to provide a fun surprize to their customers and their beloved ones, that a paper postcards cannot create. There are six vivid color variations. Both the sender and receiver will be able to obtain special feelings by this product.