Bon Bébé Creative Director Jim McPherson and maternity fashion guru Rosie Pope reveal why their new layette line is perfect for millennial parents.
First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a couture maternity line—if you’re pregnancy and parenting expert Rosie Pope. Best known for her role as the tough-talking maternity pro on the Bravo TV show Pregnant in Heels, where she helped New York City moms-to-be navigate the world of new motherhood, Pope got her start in 2008, when she opened a store in the city’s Soho neighborhood catering to well-to-do moms, designing custom gowns and offering concierge services.
Although the show quickly became known for her clients’ outlandish requests (like asking for a couture gown to give birth in), Pope herself developed a reputation for her down-to-earth, relatable demeanor, particularly after the show provided a realistic portrayal of her fertility struggles. Thanks to Pope’s growing popularity and unerring business acumen, her empire quickly expanded beyond custom gowns to include a ready-to-wear maternity line and three brick-and-mortar stores in Los Angeles and New York City. Meanwhile, Pope was putting her baby knowledge to the test, as a mother of four.
“As our brand was developing, I was also developing in the space, having babies myself, and becoming more confident through experience in helping people along their journeys,” Pope recalls. “From the very beginning, we always wanted to follow parents along their journey of parenthood. We never wanted to stay in pregnancy, although I think pregnancy is a very important place to start because that’s where parenting begins. So when we felt it was the right time, we’d always planned to move into baby.”
When Pregnant in Heels went off the air in 2012, Pope was able to keep growing her personal brand as a parenting guru, in part because of the many fans who rely on the advice she dishes out in her classes and bestselling book, Mommy IQ. For Jim McPherson, creative director at Bon Bébé, that’s what made Pope a perfect fit for the long-running babywear manufacturer. “She’s the quintessential know-it-all mom who can present her knowledge in a fun, non-pretentious, accessible way that moms—regardless of their economic status or cultural background—can understand,” he explains. “Her message gives mothers and fathers a lot more confidence in what they do, especially if they’re first-time parents.”
Not to mention, McPherson loved the baby line Pope had created in-house for her Rosie Pope stores. Looking to branch out beyond Bon Bébé’s successful core business, McPherson reached out to Pope about creating a wide-ranging collection that would appeal to today’s millennial parents. After striking a licensing deal last year, Bon Bébé introduced two lines under the Rosie Pope brand in Spring ’15: The Collection and Rosie Pope Baby. Filled with newborn essentials like bodysuits, gowns, kimono sets and blankets, as well as fashion pieces for girls in both bright and neutral patterns, The Collection is targeted toward specialty and higher-tier department stores, with a wholesale price range of $8 to $25.
But it’s the Rosie Pope Baby collection, a layette line filled with an eclectic range of contemporary prints, that Pope and McPherson really believe will resonate with today’s parents, especially at an affordable wholesale price point of $5 to $15. (For Fall ’15, the line will expand to offer playwear and hoodies.)
“What I found is there’s a lot of great stuff out there, but it all sort of sits in a very strict mold of what prints and colors are accessible. Or, it costs a million dollars. Something may be really cool, but I’m not going to pay $85 for it,” says the practical-minded Pope. “When you see your kids vomiting on themselves and then throwing slurpees at their brothers and sisters, all you can think is, ‘That cost so much money!’”
For Pope, it’s all about preserving what she’s been doing for the past seven years: solving problems for busy parents. That’s also why the lines are chock full of useful details, like convertible gowns and roll-up footies—but Pope is quick to credit McPherson, as well. “Honestly, we both look at every single silhouette, and make sure we love it. Jim has four kids too, so we always make sure it’s practical.”
“That’s the funny thing about maternity design,” she continues. “I’ve been pregnant a lot of times, but when you’re not pregnant sometimes you forget what it feels like, and you start designing stuff that actually isn’t that relevant. But when you’re a parent, you’re a parent every single day. So when someone brings in faux leather and makes a suggestion for a bodysuit, it’s pretty easy for both of us to say, ‘That’s probably not a good idea.’”
And the respect is clearly mutual. Though the collection is manufactured utilizing Bon Bébé’s extensive network of production facilities, McPherson says designing the line was a team effort. “We’re here to assist Rosie in whatever way we can. We’re not taking the ball and running with it,” he adds. “She’s got wonderful ideas, she’s passionate about the product and she’s great to work with.”
Jim, why is the Rosie Pope brand a good fit for Bon Bébé?
Jim: We felt that it really resonated with a corner of the market that we wanted to attract more. She has the millennial mom thing figured out. Her brand is hip, it’s cool, and she’s a celebrity. While we’ve had success with our in-house label, we really wanted to take our business to another level, and we thought the best way to do that was to find someone who not only was out there in the public spotlight, but was also all about baby. We’re a baby company, and we take great pride in the quality and safety of our products, as well as our expertise in making clothes for newborn babies. It’s a very specialized niche. And in Rosie, we found someone who was all about baby, and very passionate about what she was doing. There are plenty of celebrities out there that have baby lines, like the Kardashians and Jessica Simpson, and they’ve been tremendously successful, and that’s great. But motherhood isn’t the core of their beings. And I’ve met Rosie’s husband, and I know her family and her kids, and I think she truly believes in what she does, and it comes through when she talks to people about it, and it comes through in the product.
Conversely, Rosie, what are the benefits of working with a licensee like Bon Bébé?
Rosie: It’s all about relationships. You’ve got to have amazing product and great ideas, but you also have to be able to get somebody to come see you and listen to what you want to tell them and show them. That’s why I think that working with a company that has a great history of quality and success is so important. There are so many factors that go into a successful line aside from quality clothes, from sourcing to sales to a network of production facilities. There’s so much that goes into it, and equally so much that can go wrong. Partnering with a company like Bon Bébé, which knows how to make it go right, is essential. You can make the best baby clothes in the world, but if the infrastructure isn’t sufficient, it just doesn’t work.
It sounds like a great partnership.
Rosie: Jim is awesome to work with. We share ideas as a real team, and I think that’s different than a lot of the relationships that are typical of the licesnsee/licensor state. One thing that was really important to me was not only to be a part of selling the line, but also to translate some of the education and expertise in a relatable way, as we do in our classrooms and our studios. But that’s challenging to do through clothing, especially when you enter the world of multi-channel retail. So we came up with the idea to do it through hangtags. In my book Mommy IQ, I provide snippets of information, which I call Mommy IQ points. They’re really sharable on social media. So we took a whole range of Mommy IQs and put them on the hangtags, so people in the store really get a feel for what we’re all about. Through the fashion, we’re also supporting and helping people. It was really great to be able to work with Jim and his team to integrate that throughout the product. I think that’s another reason why we’re doing well in the space. As we all know, there are plenty of baby clothes and baby brands, so how do you stand out on the floor and really add value?
Helping parents seems to be a core part of the Rosie Pope brand. Is that why the baby collection is filled with functional details like roll-up footies and convertible gowns?
Rosie: Yes. Absolutely. But I’m of the belief you’re not supposed to even notice them. I don’t want to try and pretend like it’s going to do anything crazy. What you want to do is to make people’s lives easier, so they become loyal to the brand. So there are little things that parents might not even notice that make a big difference to them and their baby. That’s why we created Rosie Pope Baby and The Collection. They both solve different problems and speak to different things.
Tell me about the two collections. How are they different?
Rosie: The Collection has higher price points. The best way to describe it is as an emotional piece you want to bring your baby home in from the hospital. It’s more event-driven—it’s for that special moment or occasion, or for all that wonderful gifting that goes on when you have a baby. It’s a little bit more traditional, but it’s got the contemporary spin that’s really important to me personally and to our millennial audience.
The color palette is especially contemporary. I love the gender-neutral hues and the muted blues and pinks.
Rosie: I love pink and blue. I knew when I had my baby girl I wanted her to wear some pink. But it was important to me to find neutrals, blues and pinks that were different from what’s already out there. And from a personal standpoint, while a newborn baby can be stressful, it can also be a very beautiful and calm time, and I was thinking about that when we were designing the clothes and choosing the colors—about what would feel right at those moments. While I love highlighter hues, I wouldn’t want to put my newborn in a neon yellow jumpsuit. You want that soft moment no matter your sense of fashion, so I think it’s important to offer that here.
And what about Rosie Pope Baby? What was the inspiration for that line?
Rosie: I have four kids, and I know that kids go through clothes like crazy. They get dirty and nasty and quite frankly, you don’t want to spend a lot of money on clothes but you want your kids to look cute. We really wanted to do something different with Rosie Pope Baby, so we came up with some print concepts that are very contemporary. I think it’s pretty edgy. We’ve created a series of very cool, very original prints that can be mixed and matched, no matter what piece you buy from which prints series. It’s striking, it’s fun, it’s happy and it’s got a really great price point.
Will the two lines target different retailers?
Jim: Yes, they are geared to different market tiers. The Collection is a higher price-point line, so the potential sale is with higher-tier department stores and specialty stores and boutiques, as well as Rosie’s own shop. However, we initially had the idea that the lines would be completely stratified, but in practice, people want some of all of it. To give you a better idea: Macy’s carries Rosie Pope Baby, Bloomingdale’s carries The Collection, but Nordstrom and Lord & Taylor carry both lines.
Rosie: I think that speaks to two things. First of all, the millennial parent is used to buying high/low. They see different value in different things. We found that while they may want a really great price on some very cool, contemporary leggings, for example, they are willing to stretch for a really nice knitted sweater. I think that’s why the buyers at these different tiers really like co-mingling the collections together in a way we didn’t expect but we’re really pleased about. Second, we’ve gotten such an awesome response to the prints in Rosie Pope Baby.
Why do you think the prints in the Rosie Pope Baby collection are resonating with retailers?
Rosie: The feedback we’ve received is there’s nothing at this price point this contemporary that speaks to millennial moms this way. All of the prints are inspired by a story or a theme. We’ve got everything from sunglasses and lightning bolts to astronomy and sign language—a lot of things you might not normally expect to see on layette. We’ve started naming the series and we’ll be reproducing them because it’s something we want to be known for.
The print stories are so creative! What’s the inspiration?
Jim: Each print collection tells its own story. For me and the other artists on my team, we often think back to the joy of being a little kid. One of the groups for Fall ’15 features an outdoor explorer theme, with prints that speak to camping, wilderness animals and constellations in the sky. We obviously translate those things down to where they will work for baby, but in my mind, it’s all about imagination, storytelling and fun.
Rosie: I think for a long time baby clothing was stuck in a world where only a few icons were accessible and there were only a few colors for boys and a few colors for girls. And I just don’t think that’s where today’s parent is, and definitely not tomorrow’s parent. I have four kids now, and not one of them has come to me and asked me to tell them stories about monkeys and trucks. They’re not drawing trains all the time. They’re talking about magical worlds, the stars and superheroes.
That’s so true! And it seems to be the case for millennial parents, too, who are more interested in things like science and technology.
Rosie: Definitely. Food is another one. I think what we’re dealing with now is a generation of parents who have considered themselves their own stylists and their own designers for many years, in a way that previous generations weren’t. Their parents were choosing and buying their clothes for them. I’m at the edge of the millennial generation, so from me down, we were styling ourselves, picking out our own clothes and having a much earlier sense of fashion. So as we become parents, we want the same for our babies. We want to be able to style these outfits and make them special, but we also want them to be practical and affordable.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
Jim: The people I work with, from Rosie and her team, to the people here at Bon Bébé. We work closely together to exchange ideas and meet challenges. Our core group here at Bon Bébé has been together for quite some time now, so it feels like family. I like to be at a place where teamwork is put ahead of everything else.
Rosie: I’m passionate about parenting and being a good parent myself, so I love that what I’m most passionate about is also what I do in a way in the workplace. I’m constantly learning, so I constantly get better myself. I feel very fortunate that my passion in life is what I do for my career, as well.