Baby on Board

Whether looking for contemporary designs or a more traditional aesthetic, today's parents seek design, affordability, and convenience when shopping for baby. Many of today's parents are looking to extend their modern

April 6, 2018

Baby on Board

Whether looking for contemporary designs or a more traditional aesthetic, today's parents seek design, affordability, and convenience when shopping for baby.

Many of today's parents are looking to extend their modern home decor into the baby's nursery, so they're seeking contemporary designs that showcase bold prints and patterns in an array of eye-catching colors. Other parents are still yearning for more traditional styles and softer color palettes. Regardless of their designer preferences, today's moms agree that they're looking for convenience and affordability, especially when it comes to gift giving.

Christiane Lemieux, founder and creative director of DwellStudio, a contemporary brand that typically sells at the specialty store level, recently launched DwellStudio for Target. She says a lot of thought went into the packaging since gift giving is a major part of the baby experience. A stylish and sophisticated gift bag is now available for moms on the go. "We wanted the Target guest to be able to grab the boxes off the shelf and put them right in the gift bag and go," says Lemieux, a new mom herself.

DwellStudio for Target's colorful collection

of bedding, nursery furniture, and baby layette was introduced in January. The line makes gift giving affordable with suggested retails that range from $3 for a pair of booties to $80 for a three-piece crib set. Prior to the Target launch, the DwellStudio team received lots of feedback from supporters who were asking for better pricing.

Lemieux believes Target is the ideal home for DwellStudio, since both brands are renowned for their design vision and recognize the importance of remaining ahead of the curve. "The timing was serendipitous because they recognized that they wanted something with our contemporary take in baby and we were finally ready," says Lemieux. "Target understands the value of design and its ability to execute matches our ability, so we can create great product in a short time frame."

DwellStudio's arrangement with Target actually represents more of a partnership than a traditional licensing agreement. DwellStudio not only designs product specifically for Target, but in some cases actually supplies the items. However, DwellStudio does have more traditional licenses with Graham & Brown (wall art) and fatboy (modern beanbag seating). At press time, DwellStudio was in discussions for other licensing deals.

For the Target line, DwellStudio drew inspiration from what was working at the specialty-store level. "We interpret our designs to work in a big-box setting, but still manage to maintain the design integrity," says Lemieux. With shelf appeal in mind, colors and scale are often adjusted.

"We are really excited about the initial reception," she adds, noting that Target supported the launch with a national advertising campaign, strategic press outreach, online support, circulars, and other marketing initiatives.

Bold stripes, polka dots, and energetic all-over prints make up the Zutano brand, a vibrant collection of baby apparel and accessories that is distributed in specialty stores worldwide. The collection, which was created by designer and art director Uli Belenky and her husband Michael, a photographer, was established approximately 20 years ago when the Belenkys were expecting their first child.

Zutano, which already has a stationery and gift wrap license, will soon introduce a new member of the family. A bedding collection is expected in the second half of 2008. Described as "fresh and vibrant," the Zutano bedding brand will feature a series of mix-and-match looks that will be sure to tell a somewhat eclectic story. "When you look across all of the infant and toddler programs, there's nothing that looks like Zutano," says Jonathan Breiter, executive vice president of The Betesh Group, which operates a company called Bananafish that will manufacture the Zutano bedding.

As of press time, the collection was still in the early phases of development, so details were not available, but the Zutano line will debut through a well-known retailer outside of the specialty-store market.

From the Heart

While there's certainly a customer out there who is seeking a more contemporary aesthetic, some moms are still yearning for more traditional designs. In January, author and artist Sandra Magsamen unveiled her Messages from the Heart collection, an infant lifestyle brand at JCPenney. A line of layette, sleepwear, gifts, and accessories features Magsamen's recognizable icons, script, and hand-drawn motifs such as hearts, stars, and animal renderings.

With a focus on communication, Magsamen's collection celebrates the blessing of a new baby. Special messages such as "made with love" and "with tiny little hands babies touch our hearts forever" bring meaning to the program, which retails between $15 and $26. Photo albums, piggy banks, framed art, plush blankets, and a variety of ceramic message plaques are part of the collection, which will expand this fall to include infant bedding, room decor, diaper bags, bibs, infant plush, and bath and playwear apparel.

Magsamen is not a first-timer in the baby business. The artist has been offering baby products for 20 years now, and first began hand-making pieces in her pottery studio. Magsamen's first licensee was Silvestri for gift items. Three years ago, she teamed up with Topsville for a baby apparel program that was available exclusively at Macy's for a limited time.

Topsville still holds the apparel license, and other licenses now include Rashti & Rashti (plush, comforter, and pillow sets); Department 56 (plaques and ceramic pieces); Hamco (bibs); Kids Line (bedding); Dream Apparel (sleepwear), The Betesh Group (diaper bags); and Triboro (bath).

To encourage dialogue with the consumer, Magsamen included her Web site and e-mail address on all product hangtags. "It's really nice to be connected with the customer," she says. After all, a better understanding of her customer's needs certainly leads to a stronger collection.

Communication also plays a key role at retail. Magsamen introduced herself to store managers and personnel at all levels of JCPenney. "Every level of the company came to meet me, and I really had an opportunity to share the heart of the brand," she says enthusiastically, adding that she even created a video with the public relations team to educate the staff.

"I really found the right partner," says Magsamen of her relationship with JCPenney. "They saw the value of creating "baby boutiques" rather than simply displaying apparel on a rack. JCPenney stands behind their word, and they placed a lot of effort and resources behind the program." Magsamen believes JCPenney really cares about its customer. "They really do what they can to offer the best price and design."

The collection, which covers 70 percent of the infant floor space at JCPenney, is also on display in more than 1,000 JCPenney stores throughout the United States. Approximately 600 of the stores offer branded "baby boutiques" that prominently display the line. Pillows and comforter sets, bedding, plush, and bath are due in August.

Magsamen is looking to grow from layette to toddler with JCPenney as a partner. She also plans to extend her baby categories into stationery, diapers, wall decor, fabrics, infant toys, and health and beauty products.

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