Today, I spent the day visiting the US headquarters of Maclaren in Norwalk, CT. We were invited for a sneak preview of the 2008 product line, which will be shown at the ABC Show next month in Las Vegas. It was a great opportunity to see the new products away from the hullabaloo of the trade show, and it was nice to visit the people behind the products.
I was not allowed to take pictures, though I did take one of the amazing window display in their showroom – that stroller is sculpted out of wood! I’ve been promised that I will receive a complete set of digital images before the ABC Show, and I will share those as soon as I get them. Meanwhile, hopefully I can be descriptive enough that you’ll get the idea. There are some details that I’ve been asked not to disclose until the show, so I will have a bit more to add once I’m in Vegas.
Overall, we were very impressed with the lineup. There were no earth-shattering new releases – the basic frames are remaining unchanged. But the designers have spent a lot of time thinking about the details – the colors, the fabrics, the straps, and all the other finishing touches. Most of the models have sleek-looking new wheels, and all of them will feature a new harness clip design.
The Volo has a great new look. It’s slightly sportier looking than last year’s model, and the color accent has gone from a horizontal stripe to a curvy vertical treatment. The color selection is not finalized yet. Maclaren is also working on a web-based kiosk for retailers that would allow people to customize their own Volo stroller. Basically, you choose a frame color, a seat color, a hood color, a harness color, and (optionally) a seat pad color. Then, Maclaren custom builds your stroller and ships it directly to your door. They are testing this at FAO Schwarz exclusively until the end of the year, when it will roll out in other places.
The Triumph has not changed very much since last year. They are contemplating new colors and some cool accents, but nothing is finalized yet. The wheels are the same as last year’s model.
The new 2008 Quest boasted the best new features in the line. Most notably, it will have a carry strap, like the Triumph and Volo models do. This may not seem like a big deal, but if you’re trekking through an airport, it is so much more convenient to sling your stroller over your shoulder than it is to try and carry it horizontally using a small handle. Trust me – this is a great addition. The Quest also has a redesigned hood that features a great new window and a little pocket, too. The fabric has been upgraded, and the Quest Sport is really just beautiful all around. It even has nice color detail on the handlebars. I loved the Quest Mod, too, though I don’t think I could possibly describe it – you’ll have to wait for the pictures.
Techno XLR and XT
No substantial changes here, aside from new fabric options. They are going to continue to offer the XT in a gray base with lots of color choices for the Comfort Packs.
Again, only changes here are to the fabric choices.
The new Twin Techno, like the Techno XT, will only come in gray. Then, included in the purchase price, you can choose two Comfort Packs to customize the look. Additional Comfort Packs will be available, and as an added convenience, the Comfort Packs will fit both the Twin and the single XT. I think this is a great idea. I love that you can choose a different color to suit the personality of each little passenger.
Maclaren has done some great limited edition strollers with designers like Kate Spade and Lulu Guinness in the past. The 2008 lineup includes striking new models from both of these, but there are a couple of new names, too. Shanghai Tang is an up-and-coming Chinese luxury brand whose designs blend Chinese culture with contemporary style. Their stroller is a knockout (see the picture). It is based on the Quest frame and it includes a coordinating footmuff. Also, there will be a Lacoste stroller, based on the Ryder frame. It is a light colored background covered in a pattern of those signature green crocodiles. It comes with a Lacoste infant-size polo shirt and hat. It’s really cute.
Incidentally, I was surprised to discover that Norwalk is a great little town. There’s a beautiful aquarium, and lots of interesting shops. We had a fabulous dinner at Pasta Nostra, and then made a pitstop at Chocopologie, the chocolate cafe owned and operated by Fritz Knipschildt, a world-famous chocolatier. I will definitely stop here with my kids next time I’m driving down to New York.