New DTC toolkit   //   July 18, 2022

Lalo and West Elm launch new baby gear collaboration

DTC baby and toddler brand Lalo is launching a brand-new collaboration with West Elm in a move that aims to win over new parents looking to invest in sophisticated yet functional baby gear.

Since 2019, Lalo has been gaining steam with its high chairs, feeding accessories and kid-sized furniture, seeing 300% growth year over year the past two years. West Elm, known for design that mimics mid-century modern style, launched West Elm Kids in 2018 with the aim of carrying that aesthetic throughout the home. 

The pairing is an opportunity for both young brands to expand sales while capitalizing on the trend of useful products that don’t look like something out of a children’s playhouse, instead opting for neutral tones and high-quality materials that are easy to clean.

“When we launched three and a half years ago, the idea that a family home could look beautiful when they have a child was a novel idea,” says co-founder and president of Lalo, Michael Wieder. “Our customers really care about holding onto their identity, and that partnership really fits what we care to do really well.”

Children’s furniture is a growing space worldwide; the value of the overall global market was $26.6 billion in 2020, and projected to nearly double to $48.9 billion by 2030.

West Elm, under the umbrella of retailer Williams-Sonoma, saw growth of 12.8% with net revenues of $536 million during the first quarter of 2022. “Customers responded to new collections and line extensions and incremental sizes and aesthetics,” said president and CEO Laura Alber on an earnings call. “Additionally, new categories such as kids and bath are also fueling incremental growth.”

Lauren Detwiler, director of merchandising for West Elm Kids, told Modern Retail that West Elm Kids, which launched in 2018 as an e-commerce offering, was created in order to carry the West Elm design aesthetic throughout the home. And while about 90% of design is still done in house, Detwiler said, collaborations are a way to bring new expertise.

“We’re always looking for partners who share those same tenants but can help bring new aesthetic that complements ours, or new product categories,” she said. “We saw Lalo, and we thought it was a phenomenal brand.” 

Partnering with DTC brands has long been a strategy to both diversify West Elm offerings and test out new customer acquisition channels. The store in the past has offered products from digitally-native companies like Leesa Mattress, furniture maker Burrow and weighted blanket company Bearaby.

The new Lalo line for West Elm Kids features its signature offering “The Chair” that has 3-in-1 functions as a highchair, booster and play chair. The wooden legs of the chair are finished with West Elm’s amber tone, rather than the Lalo lighter beechwood. 

The other offerings include a kid-sized table and chairs set, plus feeding accessories in warm. light-colored tones like sage and grapefruit. Initially, the products will be on online from Lalo, West Elm Kids and for registries on Babylist, as well as Lalo’s flagship store in Manhattan. 

What stood out about the products, Detwiler said, is that they don’t look “kid-specific.” She cited the natural wood legs, smooth curves and functionality of the Chair as the main values that helped align the companies together.

Wieder said as Lalo has grown it’s been selective about its partners, as the team did not want to sacrifice its commitment to sustainable and nontoxic materials even while expanding with a larger brand. 

“West Elm, obviously an iconic interior design brand, really holds a lot of the same principles and values as Lalo around making families homes look great, but also around sustainability,” he said. “It’s about making sure you’re aligning with a company and brand that actually cares about your mission, and is going to understand why what you’re doing in the market is different, and is able to elevate that.”

Next up, Wieder said Lalo plans to zero in on other areas of baby goods, citing the “thousands of decisions” new parents make in the first year of their child’s life.

“It’s inevitable your kid is going to make a mess,” he said. “Hopefully that mess can look pretty, and it’s not sacrificing function or quality. We’ve tried to remove all those trade offs.”

Naomi Coe, founder of Little Crown Interiors and author of design book “Your Perfect Nursery,” said that the light wood tones and clean style seen in the collaboration mimics a popular trend in current children’s furniture. 

Neutrals remain the most on-trend and popular choice for baby furniture and supplies. Clients are frequently for gender-neutral designs, as well as calming and serene looks, she said. 

“I think that’s due to a couple things, first is the trend of neutrals and soft colors,” she said. “But also, everybody’s lives are so different [following COVID-19 lockdowns]. I’ve seen that mental shift where people want their homes to be super relaxing, and certainly that plays into the nursery.”