Mariko originally founded M.N. Davis & Son as a side project, before developing it into a full-fledged product line. Her signature feedsack tote bags are designed, hand-printed, and hand-sewn, right here in Brooklyn.
Originally from Japan, Mariko now works out of her studio in Greenpoint and will be joining us at Saturday’s Fall Market. Her story, which she shares below, is an inspiration for local creatives and entrepreneurs alike.
GP: What inspired you to create this brand?
Mariko: Eleven years ago I came from Japan with all the money I could save and 2 suitcases, excited to start a life in New York. To me, New York was a place where all kinds of people could gather and do creative projects, living in harmony. After getting married to my current awesome man, I started working in a mass-produced clothing company in the city. It was necessary at that time to have a stable paycheck…but I soon began to question if I wanted to be working in that field for much longer.
I learned a ton about the industry– how trends get created, how designers “design” based on those trends and then how the product is sampled overseas, shown to buyers, and ends up being sold at a store. The products are cheaply made by people who work in overseas factories for very little money. Simply, I didn’t believe in that aspect of fashion.
My husband built a recording studio with his partner, and seeing it grew little by little, organically, was a huge influence to start working on my own projects. I learned that even though running a small business has its risks, the satisfaction is much more than words can describe. So I began sewing little pouches as a side project. I realized that making goods with my hands was extremely satisfying and that other people liked them and wanted to buy them!
It has continued to grow in an organic way, without any advertising or investors. All the work was initially done by me until recently; I now have helpers, including my mother-in-law. We now sew bags in a tiny studio in Greenpoint. The building used to be a rope and twine factory in the early century.
GP: Wow, what an amazing story. Is this your day job now?
Mariko: Yes! And it feels great.
GP: What inspires your products?
Mariko: Most of my products are inspired by classic, simple and timeless materials like canvas, waxed cotton, feedsacks, wool etc. I love things that are simple and functional, but still well-designed. I definitely dislike ‘over-designed’ products, because they tend to be disposable and fall out of fashion quickly. I want the character of the materials to be showcased, and to make the sort of products that will last forever and be used for the owner’s whole life, like when you see an old man on the street carrying an awesome aged leather briefcase or bag that clearly has been with him for years and years.
For example, my canvas tote line has designs that are inspired by vintage feed sacks, and those sacks look great when they are old and dirty and broken in. I wanted to make designs that will look good when the bag is a few years old and a little dirty and broken in too.
Mariko: Canvas totes, handmade utility pouch line and 30’s reproduction fabric line are the current best sellers. Canvas totes are super useful, and people seem to love the prints on them! The utility pouches are extremely versatile, unisex, and built to last. They can act as purse for women, a tool bag for men, travel bag, etc.
GP: What’s the story behind the name?
Mariko: M.N.Davis & Son reflects my family heritage (my initials and my husband’s family name) and had the familiar sound of an old manufacturing title. Milltown, one of the lines, is a tribute to my hometown in Japan, which was a cast iron mill town for most of this century and still has many old factories and shops. It’s important for me to remember who I am and where I came from, my parents, and friends back in Japan.
GP: Are the bags locally made/eco friendly?
Mariko: All my products are handmade in Brooklyn. The high quality canvas tote bags are sewn in a small factory in Brooklyn. We print on those bags at Econo Graphics in Greenpoint. I go along for the printing every time. We print with water-based inks (its environmentally more friendly) so that the inks soak into fabrics. I am so lucky to work with Jared (the printer) because he is also an artist and understands what I want to achieve.
GP: Are you excited for the Fall Market?
Mariko: Of course ! The market is always fun, and it feels great to be part of a community of creative people.
GP: What’s your go-to spot in Greenpoint?
Mariko: I love going to Le Gamin, simply amazing food + coffee and super close to my studio! I also love Ovenly. I love getting a coffee and banana bread and taking it to the little park by the water.