It’s hard to think of a better-equipped design team for a line of children’s products than a pair of university-trained sisters — one specializing in illustration and graphics, the other in industrial design — with four kids between them. It is any wonder, then, that the Israeli duo of Lior and Paz Brouk, aka Brouksisters, have found such success with their line of handmade, organic-cotton baby goods?
“Following school, we both got jobs in design studios, but each felt that it wasn’t why we’d spent four years studying,” Lior explains. “We had a great passion to design and create something of our own.” To be sure, their banana-printed baby blankets, polka-dotted animal pillows, and crib bumpers designed to look like friendly, long-nosed critters couldn’t be mistaken for anyone else’s.
Read on to learn more about the sisters’ design process and in-house testing team.
What originally sparked your interest in designing for children?
Both of us studied design at Shenkar College in Israel — I studied graphic design and illustration and Paz studied industrial design. In our third year of school, two things drew us in the direction of designing for children: Paz and I enrolled in a toy design course, and I had my first daughter. Eventually I was too busy caring for my newborn baby to continue the course, but Paz completed it and really fell in love with the category. That’s where the seed for our business was planted, and we began to fantasize about designing something for children together.
Do both of you have children now?
I have three — 6-year-old Ori, 3-year-old Tamar, and 5-month-old Omer — and Paz has one child, Tom, who is 10 months old. All of them are our in-house models. We started our business when Tamar was born — and, actually, our first completed designs were delivered by our sewing workshop on the same day that Tamar arrived! It was very symbolic and exciting: It felt like two babies were born that day.
Now, we are both stay-at-home mothers with babies to look after, and we are grateful that our business enables us to do that. When our children grow up and go to kindergarten, we will transition to working full-time on our business. We have to admit it is very challenging to run a business and be a full-time mom, but you learn to become very efficient.
What’s your design process like? How do you generate ideas and then bring them to life?
When we think of a new collection, we are influenced by many things: fashion trends, Instagram, Pinterest — even Ori’s drawings can inspire us. We are flooded with so many visuals on a daily basis, and when the time to design arrives, all those images pop up. We start playing with colors and textures, with pencils and on the computer, and slowly begin to form a concept. Some ideas we dismiss, others we develop; sometimes the direction is clear, and sometimes it’s trial and error until we get to the desired result.
Tell us about your long-nosed pillows and crib bumpers — how did you develop those concepts?
The long-nosed Olivier pillow was the first design in our collection. When we started working with textiles, we wanted to design something unique, so we started thinking about children’s needs. We noticed that children like to hold something in their hand when they’re trying to relax, and we decided to design a pillow that would have an extension shaped like the nose of an animal, which would be easy for a baby to hold on to. Then we started looking for the animal that would suit the design best: At the beginning, we had some really bizarre models of chickens and donkeys, but then we came up with the hedgehog, and it was perfect! After we developed the Olivier pillow design, we adapted it for our blankets and baby bumpers, and it was a natural fit.
How do you know when you’ve created a successful design?
When a client contacts us because she or he must get another pillow for their child, who cannot be separated from it (so that his parent can’t even wash it), then we know we did well. That has actually happened many times already with our pillows and blankets: Children really fall in love with them, they take them to kindergarten, and they become very connected to them.
We also test products with our children at home, who tell us very honestly what they think of our designs, and we take their comments very seriously. Often, during the design process, we just get a good feeling about something — we make a model, and suddenly it feels right. It is hard to explain in words, but when we created Philippe, the cat pillow, and Olivier, we had that feeling.
What’s your favorite thing about doing this work?
What we love most about this job is seeing our ideas and sketches become finished products; when our vision becomes reality, it is always very exciting. And when customers tell us their children really love our products — and are even addicted to them — we feel very proud. Aside from that, we both like that we can be our own bosses and manage our own time.
What are some of your hopes and dreams for the future of your business?
Our plans for the future include designing children’s clothes and adding a line of textiles for grown-ups — that is something many of our customers have been asking for. And of course, we would like to reach more children around the world and keep doing what we love.
Valerie Rains is an editor at Etsy.