I remember how impractical some of the baby clothes I bought for my son were – buttons I couldn't get open, tops I couldn't get over, and babygrows that would stain after one spill.
I'm a little more savvy now (I think), so I'm only looking for and buying clothes that appear easy to put on and take off, that aren't too fiddly, and that appear to be of a material that won't stain after a messy feed.
That said, nothing could have prepared me for this week's "high-innovation" delivery of a babygrow from Parental Instinct, who say that their range of clothing makes "parenting easier".
The babygrow looks and feels fantastic, and incorporates materials not usually found in baby and infants wear. I therefore decided to ask the two founders and dads, Paddy Muldoon and Chris Baff, some questions about themselves and their fascinating range, and why they consider their line of baby and infant clothing to be a cut above the rest.
Describe yourselves each in 10 words
Baffy: “Sport loving, slightly crazy, product & innovation obsessed dad & husband”.
Paddy: “Fun, style & sport loving, entrepreneurial boundary pushing, father, husband, son"
How many kids do you each have, and what are their names/ages?
Baffy: Annabelle, 4yrs & Emily, 2yrs.
Paddy: Odinn, 3yrs.
How did you get started, and how does PI make parenting easier?
Given our background in sport, innovation and apparel, we wondered why so many of the technologies that we all take for granted in sports clothing, like moisture management or resistant materials, have not been used in infants wear.
For us the link between these kind of technologies and infants and toddlers wear was as natural as night following day and so we started to dream about creating the product that we wished existed. Two years later we are finally here.
It's all about the product; every single product has the intention of making parenting easier. All our Infant styles use our colour-coded snap system to make sure you get the snaps lined up correctly from the get go, and every Parental Instinct product is treated with nanotechnology, to release and resist stains and spills because its much easier to wipe a stain off than change an outfit.
Our site has a weekly blog “A Fresh Slice of Pi”, which discusses elements of parenthood and provides tips along the journey, in a slightly less mainstream, quick and easy read of usually less than 3 minutes.
You incorporate sports innovation into kids wear. How does this work, and why did you do this?
Let's first start with the “why": We are trying to make parenting easier, and the innovations that we are using in our product, work in the same way, and deliver the same benefits, as they do in sportswear.
Baffy was saying how frustrating it was that everytime Annabelle put a straw in a box of juice she would squeeze it and it would spill all over her and so we thought; there has to be an easier way. So, we are working with NanoTex, a world leader in applying Nano Technology to textiles for everyday benefits, such as stain and spill resistance meaning your baby is comfortable, dry and so you can wipe that juice (or "fill in the missing liquid") off instead of having to change the outfit.
What is stain-resistant technology, and why do parents need it?
There are actually two parts to the Pi magic that we talk about, the first is the stain resistance and the second part is stain release. Stain resistance means that the fibres that make up the garment actually repel any liquids they come in contact with, like if milk or juice is spilt down your babys' front.
Now some juice is very different to having something much heavier like spaghetti down your shirt front. So if there's a really big stain, the second part, which is stain release, kicks in and helps to get the product back to its original condition, making the washing process much more effective.
To get technical for a minute, it's done by creating polymers from nano-particles which give the textiles these properties. These polymers are then bonded to the fibres, investing them with the ability to do things like repel liquids. The beauty about the technology we are using is that it passes the Oeko-Tex 100 standard, which means it's perfectly safe for babies and children to wear.
Tell us about your fasteners, Snap Snaps, which sound pretty awesome.
We're pretty proud of them ourselves. We've all had those 3am wake ups where you get your little one changed only to discover that you have messed up the snaps and have to undo them and work out which one you were missing, while hoping they don’t wake up.
We felt that colour coded snaps would be an easy way to solve this frustrating issue so we developed snaps that align by colour, Blue goes to blue, green to green and red to red, making it easier to get it right the first time.
Do people find it unusual that two dads started this business?
We believe that we live in a very different world for dads than a decade ago, but funnily enough there are 2 camps; there is definitely a group who are surprised that we are going into the baby and infant market, however, the majority of people think its great.
Also, it's just our nature to look at things in a different way, it’s how Baffy and myself are wired, so when we were living through the 3am changes we were constantly coming up with ideas we thought could make parenting easier. Nanotechnology and Snap Snaps are just the first couple of these.
What are the products in the range that you’re most proud of?
It's not about a single product (although Baffy loves the Emily dress and not just because it's named after his daughter) but it’s the journey that we have been on.
When we started, most people weren’t aware of what it was and how to apply it, and it has been a real challenge. We could very easily have gone down the easy route and developed a range of product the same as everyone else, but we remained true to trying to make parenting easier, and as a result set up what we think is the first apparel factory in Africa to be able to produce nanotechnology products.
It's the same with the snaps, everyone was telling us it couldn’t be done, but we found a way. That is definitely what we are most proud of, but I think the first time we are walking down the street and we see a baby in Parental Instinct, it will hit home that parents have trusted us to help make their lives a little bit easier. That moment will be when we know the journey has begun.
What's next in the range?
Not wanting to give away too many state secrets, but we are excited about a wide selection of UV protective swimwear we are developing which will be at least SPF50+ to combat the strong sun and we are also going to be launching a range of mosquito-repellant sleeping bags in the next two months, which we believe will be a first in South Africa.