From progressive politics and flatpack furniture, to crime drama and tax-financed welfare programmes, those nice liberal types across the North Sea just seem to do everything a bit better than us, including parenting. I spoke to Anna Ekman at Swedish company BabyBjörn about the ethos behind the brand, how they choose their designs, and how they’re one of the first companies making baby products that reach out to dads directly.
Hi Anna, would you please tell me what your role is at BabyBjörn, and a little bit about the history of the company?
I work as an Art Director and also a part of the design team.
BabyBjörn is a Swedish family-owned business that started in 1961 by Björn and Lillemor Jakobson. Our products are now available in more than 50 countries worldwide. Our mission is to develop good, functional and safe products for very young children. These products are also designed to support them as they develop, up to the age of about three years.
We’re a family-owned company that feels a great sense of dedication and many of us who work here are parents too. The goal, right from the start, has been to make everyday life easier for families with young children. We have also been firmly convinced, right from day one, that you shouldn’t have to buy loads of products when your children are small – just a few that really work. Our Scandinavian roots are a constant theme of everything we do. For us, good design is always a combination of practical functionality and attractive appearance. Our fundamental commitment to safety is a consequence of the society in which we grew up.
A little video about the #dadstories campaign
I’d like to know where the idea came from to launch the #dadstories Spring Collection?
Dads have always been important to us, and for many years we have been making designs that can be worn by both men and women. In Sweden we’ve come quite far in comparison to the rest of the world; look at shared parental leave, for example. The goal for BabyBjörn is always to strengthen the bond between the baby and parent. With this collection, we wanted to inspire dads all over the world to be close to and carry their kids. We also wanted to highlight the personal stories of dads, the emotions they go through, their thoughts and fears etc. When it comes to parenting, there’s obviously a focus on the mother, but what we have noticed all over the world is the dads taking a bigger part in raising the children; younger dads are more engaged, and want to spend more time with their kids. So in a way, we are noticing a new, tender masculinity taking place.
How many of you there are on the design team at BabyBjörn? And was this a collective effort?
There are five of us in the design team. Some of us deal with the textile and product development and some of us are art directors from the marketing side. Yes, we always work together as a team and a big part of our job is to pick up on new trends, and with the new age of masculinity and the growing nurturing dad trend, it was no question that it would be the right step for us to take as a brand. This collection is only the beginning, our goal is to continue to support and work with dads in the future also.
My weapon of choice – the powder pink mesh harness
I’m particularly interested to know why you chose the designs you did, and what made you think they would appeal to dads. Personally, the powder pink carrier is ideal for summer, as I love pastels and generally wear plenty of colour, but not all dads I know would be comfortable wearing it.
We wanted to inspire dads to wear more colour, and we wanted it to be more daring, fun and visual. We also saw a big trend in floral and organic patterns. This trend is about the traditional man breaking loose from the bonds of the suit. But in the process, we realised that this idea was a bit bold for some markets, like in the US, they preferred the images with the blue background and not the pink. The collections are usually a mix of the bolder designs, colours and patterns, but we also have the denim blue and the anthracite colours for those who want something less striking and more neutral.
I always swore I’d never wear a baby carrier as (a) whats wrong with a pushchair and (b) it might cramp my style! For dads who might be a little sceptical of wearing one, why are they a must-have item for parents?
The baby carrier is essential in the ways of creating a bond as early as possible between the father and the baby and of course, it is also very practical as well as easy to use, especially at times when it’s not possible to use a pushchair.
What has the feedback been like so far? Have certain designs proved more popular than others?
The feedback has been overwhelming! It really shows that we have so much more to talk about when it comes to dads and their feelings and expectations. As we thought, the more discreet colours were the most popular in terms of sales, like the denim blue and the anthracite.
Would you consider experimenting with more designs? I was thinking that something in tweed, herringbone or cord might look really sophisticated and masculine.
Yes, we work continuously with new designs, and we like your idea! Although, with this collection we really wanted to do something non-conservative and new in terms of what you usually see on a man and a dad.
Finally, can you tell me about your partnership with the Fatherhood Institute, and why you are donating some of your baby carriers to charity?
Over the years we’ve worked with a number of partners in donating products. With the #dadstories collection we wanted to find new organisations, such as the Fatherhood Institute, that are focused on supporting dads in particular, but also new parents and families.