The industry as seen by top designers.
From a Brainstorm to a Product Line
The journey from an idea to a huge line on
by Mike Hartnett (August 15, 2010)
Have you ever wondered how a great idea
becomes a successful product line? I recently chatted with Jean
Kievlan, an industry designer/consultant, and Ellie Joos, a
marketing consultant and trends contributor, who shared with me the
evolution of their DIY cloth diapering concept. Now branded
Babyville Boutique™ and marketed by Prym Consumer USA, it's a
study of how creativity and collaboration spell success.
Jean: In 2008, my son and
daughter-in-law were expecting their first baby -- my first
grandchild. I had waited a long time, so I quickly considered all
the cute things I could make for this little one. I also volunteered
to begin stockpiling disposable diapers, but to my surprise, my
daughter-in-law told me she was using cloth diapers!
Cloth diapers? I had always used
disposables and assumed they were still a good choice, but my son
and his wife were a "new generation" couple living in a progressive
city and probably had ecological and financial considerations. With
an open mind, I began looking for diaper patterns and found there
were only a few in the retail stores, and the only fabric and other
needed supplies had to be ordered through catalogs or the Internet.
I used what was available and made a few diapers and covers, but I
was not completely satisfied with the results. I knew there had to
be a better way to construct them, so I started drafting my own
pattern. With the help of some on-line research, I finally made a
cloth diaper that really fit my new grandson. I was delighted with
With enthusiasm and an increased
interest, I searched the Internet and joined several diaper-making
communities. When I started participating on the forums, I became
aware that this was a lifestyle trend and was much bigger than I
imagined. Having worked in the craft industry, I knew there was an
opportunity to offer better patterns and a more convenient way to
purchase supplies, but I needed help in determining where to begin
and how to proceed.
When Jean called me asking for advice on developing her idea and
getting it to market, she convinced me that she had a great concept,
but I began thinking it could be more than just a diaper pattern and
an instruction book. I saw she envisioned a complete range of
products. With that in mind, I directed her to Ellie Joos. With
Ellie’s extensive knowledge and contacts in the sewing industry, I
knew she was the right person to partner with Jean in this
Knowing Ellie’s reputation and having worked with her on other
projects, I was confident Mike was right and if we could collaborate
jointly, my idea just might develop into a complete program. I was
a little hesitant about how to present my idea about this
“back-to-basics” trend but because of her verve and pizzazz, I knew
I wanted to convince Ellie to come on-board. I decided to plunge
forward and gave Ellie a call.
I was delighted to hear from Jean. We had often seen each other at
shows and worked together previously. I knew she was a
multi-talented author and a popular consultant, so I was intrigued
when she told me she had an idea about a possible product line that
supported a "green" movement and lifestyle trend.
I told Ellie up front that I wasn't just looking to her for
information and advice, but I was interested in her as a creative
partner to help me develop the products and guide me to the right
"entity" to take it to the retail market. At that point, I shared
with Ellie my discovery of the resurgence of cloth diapering and the
reasoning behind it -- ecology, economy and healthier babies.
I explained what modern cloth diapering
entailed and why the new, innovative textiles had made it so
different from what we knew from our years of babysitting in the
'60s. With the development of PUL (polyurethane laminate fabric),
colorful hook-and-loop tape, and convenient plastic snaps, young
mothers were sewing these diapers as a creative outlet and not just
out of their convictions. I told her about the forums that brought
all these enthusiasts together for support and encouragement,
especially for the novices who were just learning to sew. I
confessed my addiction to sewing the different diaper styles and how
much fun I was having.
I also told her about the struggle to
find the supplies and how consumers were relegated to shop over the
Internet and co-ops where orders took weeks to arrive. I gave Ellie
some links to research for herself and asked her to get back to me
after she had a chance to take it all in and form her own opinion.
I admit I was curious and intrigued, and a bit skeptical. I knew
Jean to be very knowledgeable, so I felt like her idea was worth
looking in to; however, I had no idea what was in store for me once
I started going to the websites and forums.
In fifteen minutes, I knew Jean was on
to the something fabulous! I immediately saw her "vision" and was so
delighted she had offered me the opportunity to collaborate with her
as co-developer of these products. I emailed Jean immediately with
my emphatic "yes.!"
Jean and I decided on our goal: to design diaper fabrics, create
patterns that fit, write clear concise instruction books, and
develop the notions and embellishments for a comprehensive range of
products. We did our homework. We researched supporting demographics
and trend information in order to compile hard numbers for potential
sales. We sought census information on how many babies were born
every year in the U.S., what percentage of the families used cloth
diapers, etc. Jean had already developed a pattern in a variety of
styles and sizes, but we needed accurate information to forecast the
true potential of this program.
We also knew we had to pinpoint priorities and asses our own
strengths. I knew immediately that Ellie would be best at organizing
the agenda and preparing presentations for potential manufacturers.
I continued to design the diapers and manage the legal aspects.
In January 2010, we presented our concept to Prym Consumer USA, our
first choice as a development partner. We delivered our presentation
to their sales and marketing team, lead by Laura Mooney, Director of
Marketing. We felt confident that they recognized our perception and
Shortly after CHA 2010, we received the exciting news that Prym had
decided to work with us. With their talented development team and
reputation in the industry, we knew we had found a company who would
successfully bring our vision to fruition.
A comprehensive diapering and accessory program is born
We were thrilled when Prym assigned Gwen Edwards as the product
manager. Her first task was to organize a team of talented
individuals to fully develop our concept, starting with its brand
name. Spearheaded by the creative graphics of Angel Hartline, in
conjunction with the Prym graphic design department, the team
brainstormed and Babyville Boutique was born.
Gwen and the Prym team managed the
product's timeline, and key aspects of development including
sourcing, sampling, packaging, pricing, and compliance. Prym was
charged with getting this program ready for retail, building an
online marketing campaign to keep moms inspired to sew for their
little ones, and connect them to others with whom they can share
Ellie and I still had a lot of creative work to do, too! We worked
on mock-ups and samples for the presentations as well as dedicated a
lot of time to writing two instruction books. We
attended to other necessary items, including working with
photographers on the store signage and publicity shots.
We were confident in Prym’s ability to place the program with key
retailers, but we were still anxious to hear the results. Finally
they came. All of our hard work, careful decision making, planning,
and collaboration had resulted in an overwhelming response from
Words cannot express my appreciation to Mike for his thoughtful and
excellent advice. Without Ellie, I may have been overwhelmed and
Babyville Boutique may not have become a reality. By choosing
the right business partner in Prym Consumer, we are very pleased
that soon mothers will have the option of outfitting their babies
with easy-sew cloth diapers and accessories that are unique, green,
and readily available.
The Babyville Boutique™ Facebook
page, now up and running, is alive with excitement and pictures
posted by some of the creative diaper sewing testers at: http://www.facebook.com/BabyvilleBoutique.