If you’ve ever managed to entirely capsize your pram thanks to an enormous baby bag hanging off the handle - and please tell me I’m not alone there - then you’ll want to keep reading...
While no babies were harmed in my incident, I can’t say the same for my daycare-drop-off cred. Or my posture, after three years of lugging around enough nappies and changes of clothes to be able to swing a 6 week Europe trip on a moment’s notice (a girl can dream).
So when I first came across Bonnie and Kind, I must admit, I wasn’t sure the brand’s minimal-luxe, compact nappy bag would be the right fit. And I do mean that literally. The buttery-soft leather kit looks more like a clutch than a baby bag. It’s smaller than most of my handbags. With an adjustable leather strap, it can be worn cross-body (my preference) or over the shoulder, but at first glance I was sure that unless this was a Mary Poppins situation, there was no way I was getting everything I needed in there.
I was wrong. This bag has everything – loops, clips, zippered compartments, elastic for its custom wipes dispenser, a toggle for your keys or dummies, a fold out change mat, and enough room to hold all the essentials. Everything you need, nothing you don’t. And that’s exactly how the bag was born.
“A month into having Hunter”, founder Judy Fraser recalls, “I realised I didn’t need the house and the kitchen sink when I went out with him! And having a big baby bag actually made changing more challenging in those yucky change rooms.”
But there was more behind Bonnie and Kind than the search for a better changing solution. “I did not find the transition into Motherhood an easy one”, Judy admits. “I struggled with my new identity of ‘Mum’. I mourned the loss of spontaneity, freedom and putting my career on hold…my body felt different. I didn’t feel confident nor comfortable in my new skin.
That was my inspiration to create a better solution! Something that made women feel empowered, confident and more like our old selves. I wanted to change the default to baby bags – why can’t there be something that we love aesthetically, whilst delivering functionality as we did motherhood? Any beautiful bag you own can be transformed into a baby bag with the baby kit within it!”
Bonnie and Kind certainly lives up to its name. Judy may just be the kindest person I’ve ever interviewed. Meet the woman behind the name…
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Can you describe the baby bag you had when your son was born? What did you find lacking?
I was so excited when I first started shopping around for a baby bag. I was 20 weeks pregnant with my son, Hunter. My excitement waned as I quickly realised, even the few nicer options I saw didn’t resemble anything I would have happily chosen prior to motherhood. I settled on a black baby bag, that had that ‘swishy’ PVC like material on the exterior. It was big which meant I could fit everything I thought I needed into it. The outside was discreet, it didn’t scream baby bag and the inside had compartments for nappies, creams, swaddles etc. I thought I’d found something that was the most ‘me’ of what was available. I never felt good carrying or wearing it, but I thought I needed to compromise on style because functionality came first now that I was a Mum!
I eagerly filled my Baby bag – nappies, swaddles, creams, bibs, wet wipes, spare outfits, Panadol, bottle, nappy sacks, spare socks and jumper, more creams… By the time I had filled it up, the bag was enormous, heavy and even less stylish than it was before I filled it up. I hung the baby bag on my pram because it was way too heavy to lug around on my shoulder and with baby in tow!
I remember when needing to change my son, I’d lug that enormous baby bag into the changeroom with me, whilst holding him in my arms. Even though I’d perfectly organised and arranged all the contents within the bag, it was hard to access all the bits and bobs that I needed whilst trying to keep him from rolling off the change table. I am sure we’ve all been there and experienced that! I dreaded changing Hunter when we were out, as it always felt like a rigmarole. Also, there was never anywhere clean in those changerooms to put my cumbersome baby bag!
I realised after a few outings that my baby bag was far from functional and definitely left me feeling compromised in the style department. I persisted with it for two months and then one day, after trying to change a poo explosion in the restaurant changeroom – I went home and took everything out of my baby bag and put it away in the cupboard, never to be seen again.
What my baby bag was lacking? It didn’t represent my aesthetic and I didn’t feel good carrying it. Already feeling somewhat insecure trying to grow into being a mother and this new identity – it made me feel even less comfortable in my own skin. My bag also lacked functionality. A month into having Hunter, I realised I didn’t need the house and the kitchen sink when I went out with him! And having a big baby bag actually made changing more challenging in those yucky changerooms.
I thought to myself at the time ‘I wish there was an option that was sleek, compact, that held everything I needed to change Hunter and hold his essentials’. Then I’d be able to just take that with me into changerooms and wherever I went.
What was the inspiration for Bonnie and Kind?
After talking to girlfriends who’ve had babies, and mums in my mothers group, I realised they also had the same experience as me with their baby bags. We felt like we were settling, it didn’t feel good – there had to be a better option.
On top of that, I did not find the transition into motherhood an easy one. I struggled with my new identity of ‘Mum’. I mourned the loss of spontaneity, freedom and putting my career on hold…my body felt different. I didn’t feel confident nor comfortable in my new skin.
That was my inspiration to create a better solution! Something that made women feel empowered, confident and more like our ‘old selves’. I wanted to change the default to baby bags – why can’t there be something that we love aesthetically whilst delivering functionality as we did motherhood? Any beautiful bag you own can be transformed into a baby bag with the baby kit within it!
I wanted to put the Woman at the heart, so she feels special and seen. And thus, Bonnie and Kind was born. Bonnie stands for a beautiful (because I think us women are just that – amazing and beautiful) and Kind stands for showing yourself kindness and each other kindness, particularly during on our motherhood journey – we can all cut ourselves some slack.
Talk me through the design process. What was it like and did you have many false starts before settling on the design you launched with?
There were so many false starts! Makes me smile thinking about them all now but at the time, I cried and I tore my hair out!
I had the concept that the Baby Kit needed to live up to a beautiful, sleek, luxurious leather bag that I and any one of my friends would love and be proud to wear before motherhood. Externally the Kit needed to aesthetically look at home in a Vogue or Harper’s Bazaar, whilst the inside of the bag surprises and delights when you open it up. It delivers functionality and is meticulously designed with thoughtful pockets, zips and pouches for all the baby and toddler essentials. I wanted to change the way we did baby bags and create a Kit that turns any bag into a baby bag, so we can confidently stay true to what makes us happy, and our style.
I initially started sketching design concepts sitting at our dining table (aka my office!) with kids afoot. The initial designs didn’t look much better than what my 5 year old could muster but I kept collecting inspiration of looks, dimensions, finishes from the beautiful designer brands I loved. One thing I found really important in getting the design right was partnering with a London based handbag designer who has designed for luxury brands. That really got the design of the Baby Kits to the next level and delivered the vision for Bonnie and Kind.
It took so many prototypes before I got it right! It really was an emotional rollercoaster. You think you are so close then something else falls short. The whole design and manufacturing process took over two years. It took a lot of perseverance and refinement to get it right. I really wanted to make sure our Kits delivered that ‘specialness’ to women, so that whenever they wear it and use it they felt good and it’s something special for them for their motherhood journey. I am so glad we took the time to get it right. Especially when our customers tell us the quality of our Kits are akin to a designer bag and how much they love using it.
What gave you the courage to start your own business?
I’ve always had this fire in me to start something of my own all throughout my corporate career. I’ve always kept an ideas book where I’d jot down crazy ideas that came to mind or solutions to issues I’ve found.
As more of my friends had kids and found the same struggle with baby bags, it was so clear there was a problem I needed to solve! I felt so passionately about this baby kit idea, I knew I had to pursue this.
I took courage from listening to podcasts which showcased amazing, inspirational women that have all founded their own business and the one piece advice they all share is ‘You are the only one who can make it happen. You’re in the driver seat – just give things a go – you must start somewhere and if you fail, at least you’ve put yourself out there and given it a go’. I am also very fortunate to have successful entrepreneurs around me who have shared invaluable perspective and advice.
What were your career highlights before launching your own brand?
My background is in Marketing and after I completed my Bachelor of Business and Journalism degree. I was offered the opportunity to work with Unilever (a global consumer good business) where I worked on major campaigns for well-known local and international brands. I got to travel through Asia and Europe with my role and worked with some amazing people who are still dear friends today. I then joined Australia’s biggest Brewer – Lion Nathan, where I worked across much loved beer brands.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have many career highlights, and the biggest one which I still remember so vividly is leading a multi-million dollar television commercial where we closed down the streets of Auckland CBD. It was past midnight and we had deers and stags running down the main strip, in the midst of winter. That was one of the most surreal campaigns I’ve ever had the opportunity to work on.
How has motherhood changed your style?
My inherent style hasn’t changed – I still love classic, timeless pieces and still wear a lot of the pieces I’ve had in my wardrobe prior to motherhood.
What has shifted though, is my dresses are certainly flowier and longer these days. I’ve traded in high stilettos (which I could have run in back in the day!) for casual sneakers. Oh and I’ve discovered high waisted jeans (how amazing are high-waisted jeans!)
What are your top three motherhood must-haves?
This is a hard one! I have so many I’d love to share….ok, here goes:
- Ergo Pouch Swaddle: These swaddles are miracle sleep whisperers! They are fabulous because they keep your baby’s arms nice and snug within the swaddle, so no chance of them breaking out and waking themselves up with flailing arms. We swore by these with both my kids.
- Sudocrem: Never went anywhere without it! The wonder cream for nappy rashes or irritation. We always had Sudocrem at the ready and a tub could be found in almost every room.
- Bonnie and Kind Baby Kit: Am I allowed to say that?! I am biased but oh my goodness I wish there was something like this when I had my firstborn. I then wouldn’t have had dislocated shoulders and wrestled with my baby bag every time I had to change the kids.
- If the Baby Kit can’t count then – Wet Wipes: How did I not know about wet wipes before kids!? Wet wipes will be with me for the rest of my life.
What's your dream for the future of Bonnie and Kind? Will you expand the range?
I really hope Bonnie and Kind helps to support and uplift women throughout their motherhood journey. I want every mother to feel confident, empowered, and proud, especially when they wear their Baby Kit. If I can change the way we do baby bags, that would be a dream come true.
With the support of the brand to date with the short time we’ve been in the market, we will definitely be looking at expanding the range. Watch this space!
I’d love to see Bonnie and Kind one day ranged in Liberty London or do a collaboration with them. I have such fond memories of Liberty during my trips to London.