MIKI HOUSE Craftsmanship


Soft, gentle gauze bath towel for babies.

Cute little towels, made just for babies.
These towels are different from those used by adults; they are an unusual square shape and the fabric is thin. You may think, could such a thing really be a bath towel? But indeed it is.

One side of the Gauze Bath Towel is made of gauze, while the other side is pile fabric.
60,000 pieces are sold each year, making this one of the most popular MIKI HOUSE baby items.
Though these gauze towels are for babies, they are actually popular among MIKI HOUSE employees as well. They are thin, easy to use, and dry fast.

Yoshifumi Tanaka, President of Tanaka Sangyo Co., Ltd.,
has been making gauze towels alongside MIKI HOUSE since 2004.

“My first interaction with MIKI HOUSE was when they asked me, “Can you make a gauze swaddle?” Tanaka says. “And I thought it would be impossible,” he laughs.

Why “gauze swaddle,” when Tanaka Sangyo is a towel maker? Let’s unravel this origin story. The baby swaddle, now a hugely popular gauze bath towel, has a crucial craftsmanship secret. The story of this secret began 2 years before the creation of the Gauze Bath Towel.

To begin, the stories of MIKI HOUSE Baby Bathrobe and Baby Bath Poncho, two of MIKI HOUSE’s longtime bestsellers, must be introduced first. Imabari, located in Ehime Prefecture overlooking the Seto Inland Sea, is Japan’s number one towel producer and boasts approximately 60% of shares. Imabari Towel is a luxury towel brand well-known and beloved across the globe. Tanaka Sangyo has been operating in this area for 90 years, and is representative of the towel makers of this area.

But how did a children’s clothing brand like MIKI HOUSE become partners with a towel maker like Tanaka Sangyo? “I think it was around 1997. The opportunity arose when MIKI HOUSE was looking for a new towel manufacturer to make towels for occasion gift sets, and Kurabo Industries introduced us. I was in my 20s then, and as soon as I heard them say MIKI HOUSE, I flew straight to Osaka.”

He mentions that the name MIKI HOUSE brought fond memories of his childhood. “I have a brother 8 years younger than me, and I remember when we were young, we got MIKI HOUSE clothes at the stores in Imabari, and how cute they were.”

As a result, he visited MIKI HOUSE many times and received numerous orders, ultimately continuing business with MIKI HOUSE.
Of course, the orders were for towels. But one day, Hirano from MIKI HOUSE’s production control department consulted Tanaka.

“I want not a towel, but a wholly new product that is not confined by the boundaries of a towel.” Because MIKI HOUSE is not a towel expert, they wished to consult Tanaka Sangyo’s expertise and craftsmanship to discuss such an idea.

Towels are a “woven product” with standard fixed shapes and dimensions, made with entirely different manufacturing methods from MIKI HOUSE’s usual “sewn products,” which are cut and sewn. Although they are able to design, weave, and produce towels, Tanaka had no experience using towel fabric to make something a baby could wear.

But Tanaka found this exciting.
After all, by challenging themselves to make “sewn products,” which they had previously never done, they had a golden opportunity to bring something new to the Imabari region.

“Because towels are made with absorbency in mind, their fabric is usually rougher than that of sewn fabric. Using this rough fabric for baby clothes is difficult. We needed to start from scratch and design a towel fabric that was soft, fluffy, and fit for sewn products. This took a lot of effort. We went to MIKI HOUSE several times to have them check samples. It was difficult to get their approval.”

Finally, after finding a factory that meets the technical challenges and much experimentation, the Baby Bathrobe and Baby Bath Poncho were commercialized in 2003. These were a huge hit as birth celebration gifts, and are still a popular MIKI HOUSE product today.
Cute design and outstanding usability. For new parents taking care of their newborn baby, it is a holy grail item. It is perfect for wrapping the baby up after baths and keeping them warm.

The birth of this product is said to have changed the region.

“Though the region primarily only produced towels up until this point, this product filled local jobs with sewn products all year round. This was a truly new change.” The popular Bath Poncho promoted growth, but MIKI HOUSE soon presented an even higher hurdle.

They wanted a gauze swaddle.

“We are towel makers. What do you mean by a gauze swaddle? At first, I was confused. And the more I listened, the more I thought it would be impossible.”

These were MIKI HOUSE’s requests.

“We want you to make a cute swaddle that is not plain, but with multi-colored prints, has the softness and absorbency of pile fabric, and dries as quickly as gauze. With Mr. Tanaka’s expertise and craftsmanship, would such a product be possible?”

A swaddle for babies.
On top of that, made of soft, fluffy gauze.
What can we do to make the most of our strengths?

“And that’s how we decided on the double-sided design, with one side towel fabric and the other side gauze. The towel is made with fine count thread, which is so fine it is reinforced with glue to prevent breaking. We used our high-speed towel looms to weave this fine thread, but it took a lot of time to design and adjust the final fabric.”

Tanaka Sangyo uses wheat flour as their glue to be conscious towards both the environment and the body. This attention to detail is part of Tanaka’s commitment to better manufacturing.

If the gauze fabric, which is the base to the towel fabric, is made too coarse to ensure quick drying, the pile on the towel fabric may slip off. That being said, if the fabric density is too high, the fabric will become too hard. The density setting of the warp threads became the solution. They were able to experiment over and over because the factory manager they partnered with took on the challenge, finding the fun in the hardship as they created the new product together.

When samples were completed, they were brought to MIKI HOUSE to check for softness, texture and feel. “We tried again and again, making the tiniest but necessary adjustments. It was a difficult task, but I felt so relieved when we finally received MIKI HOUSE’s approval.”

And so the gauze swaddle was born, and the Gauze Bath Towel was soon available for sale.

Tanaka Sangyo reflects on its partnership with MIKI HOUSE to create towels, bath ponchos, and the Gauze Bath Towel.

“When a towel maker receives an OEM production order from a brand, usually the design and logo are provided, and our job is to just give it a luxurious look. But MIKI HOUSE asks for detailed qualities like usability, durability, and quick drying.
On top of that, they seek a high level of quality control, even thinking about what happens to the product after washing and drying. I feel these are difficult challenges.
However, I wanted to do my best, and persevered to fulfill every request and turn them into reality.”

Tanaka is the fourth generation of towel makers, carrying on the 90-year business from his grandfather’s generation.
From his perspective, what is MIKI HOUSE?

“I get a lot of motivation from MIKI HOUSE. They value us as their suppliers, and get new insights from us.
My wife was a MIKI HOUSE employee, and from her stories of her time at MIKI HOUSE, I learned that MIKI HOUSE was a company that values its employees and even the students that came job hunting. I remember a decade ago, when my wife and I decided to marry and announced the decision to MIKI HOUSE’s president and manager, they received the news as though we were their own children.”

MIKI HOUSE values its company, its suppliers, its customers and even future customers.

Manufacturing businesses prosper during times of development. This is because craftsmanship is essential in creating and distributing what is lacking. On the other hand, it is difficult to innovate in the textile and towel industries in developed countries. This is precisely why new craftsmanship systems become necessary.

“At our company, newly graduated high school students come to join us every year. It takes 50 years for these 18-year olds to reach retirement age. As those who manage that company, it is our responsibility to maintain a company that can continue for the next 50 years.”

Tanaka continues, “When I came to know MIKI HOUSE, I thought ‘I can make a company like this!’ There are plenty of companies worldwide that are profitable. And while it’s important to be profitable, my relationship with MIKI HOUSE taught me that I want our company to be one that brings value to the world.”

At the beginning of its story, the Gauze Bath Towel was thought to be impossible. That one small cloth carries not only technical artistry, but also the passion of many craftsmen in every thread. Here in this product is craftsmanship that only MIKI HOUSE could achieve.

Wrapped gently in the fabric after a bath, the babies that use the Gauze Bath Towel are sure to receive the love woven into its threads and remember them fondly.