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#LifeLokal: Mari Ma-ART-e aims for women empowerment while satisfying your pop culture needs

By John Patrick Magno Ranara Published Mar 10, 2023 5:35 pm

Oftentimes, we want to imbue a certain kind of aesthetic into our everyday wear that reflects our personality and interests. It could be something related to our favorite film or TV shows, or our beloved idols and celebrities, or it could even be a memorable quote or line that we stand by.

At Mari Ma-ART-e, you'll be able to find just what you're looking for and more. From T-shirts and hoodies to tote bags and pouches, the all-in-one merchandise shop features cute and adorable artworks that highlights everything pop culture: Taylor Swift, Stranger Things, Wednesday, Harry Potter, BTS, Extraordinary Attorney Woo—and these all came from the hand of Mari Manalo.

According to Mari, her online store started through making art that would bring positive energy towards her customers.

"I started Mari Ma-ART-e by creating art that can add value to someone’s life, that can bring more happiness, bring more inspiration, and bring more empowerment," she said.

"My interest in art started when I was pretty young, but it was only after college and I was working that I was able to fund art-related classes and grow it. And to be honest, it was only recently that I had the guts to call myself an artist," she shared.

But more than putting a smile on people's faces through pop culture artworks, Mari also uses her brand to emphasize women empowerment, as seen in many of her designs that aim to uplift, inspire, and move women to become the unstoppable beings that they are.

Continue reading to know more about Mari Ma-ART-e's hand-drawn designs and why they play an important part in spotlighting how art plays an important part in fashion.

What’s the story behind your brand’s name?

Mari Ma-ART-e is my namesake and it is also a way to reclaim the word maarte. During the starting phase, I really thought I was just a "maarte" doing a lot of art. I can never really call myself an artist because I never had a proper art education to support the name. It took me years, experience and a growing portfolio to support the ART in ma-ART-e. Moreover, the brand started with accessories and trinkets that are usually related to being maarte and, in Philippine context, is somewhat negative, so we incorporated the word ART to make it more meaningful.

How has your Filipino culture influenced your brand values and identity?

The brand revolves mainly on motherhood, women, and family, which are some of the brand’s very essence. I grew the brand to empower women—moms specifically—since I'm growing the whole business while being a mom, so I also treat it as a baby that we nurture and grow. Also, even if we have grown the brand into different brand branches, one of our core collections is our Pinay collection, which aims to empower and highlight the modern Filipina.

There are so many competitive brands within the world of fashion right now, how do you make your brand stand out from the rest?

As a brand, we try to make everyone have a piece of us. We serve a wide array of products to include everyone—moms, kids, every Filipina, patriots, K-pop fans, movie fanatics, pet parents, and more. We try to serve an all-in-one merchandise shop for everyone, because we do believe that there is a "ma-art-e" in each one of us.

What other obstacles have you faced while creating your brand and how have you overcome them?

It was more of how fast it grew to one brand to another and it was a challenge how to compartmentalize everything, but we did overcome it by making sure one stays true to its brand identity.

How would you describe your brand's aesthetic?

Our aesthetic is warm and light. We mainly focus on designs and colors that brings only good vibes and happiness to clients. We want them to feel it the moment they hop into our page. 

How do you want your clients to feel when they're using your products?

We want them happy and inspired. We create art to make them feel better and to inspire them to go on each day. We do pour in love and happiness in each one, and we hope to send the same to them.