MEET THE FOUNDER:
XAVIER DE BURE, BABYZEN
I appreciate the fact that fathers play a more significant role in running and supporting their families but, if there is a gold medal to be dished out, it goes to the mothers out there, to my wife Estelle. I'm merely tagging along doing the best I can.
One pretty cool Dad, meet the father, Xavier de Bure. He is the third generation of his family born in Asia, husband to Estelle and father of two gorgeous kids, five-year-old Charles and seven-year-old Amandine, and Co-founder of BABYZEN: a company responsible for creating the YOYO stroller. Probably Hong Kong's favourite kid-related accessory, and rightfully so! It's small, light and all about the urban family. We sat down to talk about the head-scratcher that is being a parent, running a company, and living these lives in Hong Kong- one of the fastest-paced cities in the world.
Tell us how the idea for the YOYO was seeded? It is interesting, a group of dads coming together to develop a children's stroller, how did that happen?
Originally, when we created the BABYZEN brand in 2009 there were four founders. My CEO and his dad, a product designer, another partner specialising in industrial drawing, and myself. The following year in 2010, we attended a major trade fair in Europe, and met a gentleman who came to see us regarding a patent for a fantastic stroller folding system. Our CEO and co-founder immediately recognised the potential for the product. We had our designer recreate the aesthetic, and our other partner create something that could be commercially manufactured. In 2012 we finally brought the YOYO to the market and launched the brand.
Being a father definitely did aid me, but I would say more so in 'phase two'-let me explain- I was lucky enough to start the adventure before having had children. I came from the perspective of a man imagining what it would be like to be a father and not wanting to compromise my lifestyle at the time. When the YOYO finally came out, I had become a father and this gave me a new outlook. To be blunt it made me think of the product not only from a lifestyle perspective but from the perspective of my children's safety. We all as fathers would not manufacture any product we weren't comfortable using with our own children.
How has the role of fatherhood changed in your view?
A part I find truly amazing, is something that separates parents today from what they were in past generations. Today parents, fathers, in particular, have changed. Fathers change nappies, they bathe their kids, attend day-care, they are more involved in the day-to-day routine of the family. It is just not the same today as it was 20 years ago, or when our parents were in their prime. I guess this is also why having equipment that is compatible with the needs of an urban family today is essential. We live a particular lifestyle, we live in big urban cities, we travel like mad! Which was not so common in the past. We want to go out, we want to meet friends in restaurants and we want to do that with our children. I feel that parents shouldn’t have to sacrifice their lifestyle- that's who this new generation is! As a company, we feel strongly about supporting these parents, helping them to live their lives fully and without compromise.
There is a new generation of fathers taking care of their children in a completely different way. They are doing it all. Growing their professional environment, taking the kids to day-care, cooking for them, changing nappies and taking their paternity leave- all great things!
What is the potential for design and innovation in the area of sustainability?
I am very proud of all of our products. We are just about the only stroller, entirely assembled with screws as opposed to rivets, why is that important? It means that in the world we live in, where recycling is becoming more important out of obvious necessity, it can be entirely disassembled and recycled by material or individual component. That is un-seen today in the existing stroller world. Most are made with rivets, which means you have to crush everything together or tear it apart and that makes the constraints for recycling significantly more difficult. What I feel is important to know, is that the community you live may not offer you those recycling options right now however, things will change, and when they do, we will be compatible. We are trying to limit the negative impact on the environment because one day, it is going to change, it has to change and as a brand you need to be in front of that and not behind it.
A popular question, often asked of working mothers is: how do they manage their busy work/ life balance, what does this question mean to you as a father?
It is a tough question. I don't think there is a right answer or a 'one size fits all' solution. It's very personal, and individual. It depends on what your lifestyle is, what your values are and possibly what your environment is, or family environment is. I think that your work life and family life are separate things. On a professional level, we know from our consumers that they lead busy lives, they travel a lot and are working very hard. Juggling a professional life alongside a family life can be tricky, children have a million activities, and families want to and need to work but they essentially want to be together. For me personally, it's not always easy. You do your best to be there for your family as much as possible. It is rewarding and challenging all at once. I appreciate the fact that fathers play a more significant role in running and supporting their families but, if there is a gold medal to be dished out, it goes to the mothers out there, to my wife Estelle. I'm merely tagging along doing the best I can.
How do you see the roles of fathers in Hong Kong to those living in Europe?
For my family, personally, I don't see that much difference possibly because I bring a European approach to family life in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is an extraordinarily cosmopolitan place with so many different parenting behaviours coming from all over the world. It makes an excellent environment for our children to grow up in, they truly benefit from the diversity. There is a new generation of fathers taking care of their children in a completely different way. They are doing it all. Growing their professional environment, taking the kids to day-care, cooking for them, changing nappies and taking their paternity leave- all great things! It helps to create a bond with the child from the very beginning. Fathers don't miss out as much now. Then, I guess, you just do your best.
There is nothing better than your 5-year-old arriving home with a drawing of a big heart and a dad on the front of it. Buy me a watch or a shaving kit if you want to, but it doesn't come close to the small things, that's all I need!
Here at Retykle, we are passionate about encouraging parents to make informed decisions about the clothes they buy for their little ones. What are the risks associated with the counterfeit market for BABYZEN and the YOYO? How do you combat this as a business?
There are two main ways of combating this, you tackle this as a brand, legally. Telling the counterfeit industry, you are a brand to be reckoned with and you are going to protect your rights. We have five international patents on the YOYO alone and we defend these patents. We invest in them, we invest in our intellectual property, and we invest in our brand. We are now in over 85 countries, and we are not going to be played around with, we take it very seriously. It has to be a strong message. Over fifteen complaints were filed in China and were settled by court action and ultimately won by BABYZEN.
On a much more personal level, it comes down to information and education. It's our responsibility as a stroller brand to explain to people who would potentially use our product and equipment or any piece of equipment from any brand on the market, to avoid the copies. These products are dangerous, they use heavy metals in the paint, they use materials that are highly flammable, and their stability is compromised, less than safe. If consumers don't know this information, then, of course, they are going to go for the cheaper version, so it's our responsibility as manufacturers to try and educate people about the risks and the dangers out there when it comes to the counterfeit market. Don’t underestimate the counterfeit market, they are intelligent and sometimes convincing, it’s up to us to be educated and armed with the facts. As a consumer, buying from a reputable authorised retailer is essential and they have numerous ways to verify the product, this is so valuable when a Childs safety is in question.
How do you feel about sustainability in business? Companies are more aware of the second-hand potential of their merchandise, and the opportunities in that realm. What are your thoughts?
I think it is a great thing! Provided it can be executed. I think we need to take it seriously and not treat it as a trend, it has to be something we are serious about. The definition of sustainability is the ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level, a long term concept, especially in a city like Hong Kong where materialism is the norm. It's about a change of mindset, maybe we are not supposed to be buying new products every other day for ourselves and for our kids. It's going to take a lot more than just a few brands, but it's a good start to start anywhere.
You want your children to grow into self-respecting, confident human beings and when you see your child developing these tremendously important values and characteristics, well then, there is the reward.
What are your favourite aspects of family life and being a Father?
One of my favourite things, as a father, is the element of surprise on a day-to-day basis that children offer you. There is always something new happening. It might be something that you and your child discussed the previous day, has today, somehow changed in tone and depth and that thought from yesterday is now much more evolved which and is an amazing thing to watch. There are so many new remarkable discoveries that you can experience together. The sense of responsibility is one that I find challenging yet exciting. It's daunting, but for the most part, it is an adventure. You want your children to grow into self-respecting, confident human beings and when you see your child developing these tremendously important values and characteristics, well then, there is the reward. It is a two-way experience for both the parent and the child.
With Father's Day around the corner, how will you spend it?
A quiet morning, maybe lunch. All of our lives are so heavily scheduled and extensively planned out, so sometimes it’s nice to just play it by ear. I think this year, fathers day will be a surprise. There is nothing better than your 5-year-old arriving home with a drawing of a big heart and a dad on the front of it. Buy me a watch or a shaving kit if you want to, but it doesn't come close to the small things, that's all I need!