In the spring of 2011, Gavin Lodge and his partner were anxiously preparing for the birth of their first child. As they added necessities like baby bottles and crib sheets to their registry, it quickly became apparent to Lodge that diaper bags were not designed for men. Not by a longshot. After scouring big box baby stores as well as high end boutiques for a diaper bag that didn’t have a feminine color scheme or garish patterns, he and his partner settled on one of the only bags they could find without a floral pattern.
As he settled into parenthood, Lodge says he wanted baby products that celebrated the fact that he was a proud father — and those products simply didn’t exist.
“I think that dad-oriented baby products ‘apologize’ for being a dad, like, ‘my wife told me I had to carry my own stupid bag. So we compromised with this one that does NOT look like a diaper bag,’” he tells Scary Mommy. “I love having the responsibilities and nurturing my kids, and I wanted to proudly don the identity of stylish dad.”
For him, and for the dads he met at preschool, it was clear that style wasn’t always an afterthought. “More and more men take pride in their outward appearance and the baby products when I was a new dad didn’t reflect my love of fatherhood.”
So, Lodge set out to change the landscape of products marketed to fathers. And he started with, you guessed it, diaper bags.
With a professional background in political campaigns and acting in New York City, Lodge admits he didn’t know the first thing about fashion design, marketing and advertising. But he figured he was up to the task — and he was determined to see his project through.
In four-hour increments — in between preschool drop-offs, play dates and laundry — Lodge slowly but surely built his company, E. C. Knox (using the initials of his two sons) and designed his diaper bag. In the fall of 2017, his “Ellison” diaper bag hit the shelves of Barneys New York.
Lodge acknowledges, obviously, few of us actually need any of the things included in “baby gear” marketed to both moms and dads. “We could just throw shit into a backpack and call it a day,” he jokes.
But, he says, in creating stylish products for dads, he’s hoping to allow men to feel more comfortable in their parenting role. “Men are just as capable and increasingly involved — by choice. I want to give them something that announces ‘I’m a proud dad.’”
And Lodge is quick to point out that he feels passionate that baby products geared for men not buy into the stereotype that men are not as capable as women when it comes to parenting. “Parenting roles are often exploited and I didn’t want my products to buy into the ‘dumb dad’ stereotype.”
Lodge says that when he arrives at play dates and preschool drop off, sporting his bag, fathers tell him they wish they’d had a bag like the Ellison when they were new dads.
Lodge says one of the most gratifying parts of building his company from the ground up is the example he’s setting for his boys, ages 6 and 4. Though juggling full time parenting with managing a startup company hasn’t been easy, Lodge hopes his boys take to heart that they shouldn’t sell themselves short if they have an idea they want to bring to fruition. And he wants them to know that people are willing to help you along the way, when you are spearheading a new challenge.
“I hope they realize people do want to help you and build relationships,” he says. “It’s all about personal connections. You can get far asking for advice and direction and reaching out to make connections with people.”
While his first diaper bag line is taking off, Lodge is far from finished. He has a second diaper bag style about to launch, plans for travel bags and a line of baby blankets and swaddlers with masculine prints in the works. He has even set his sights on a clothing line for new dads.
As for advice for moms and dads who have an idea for a company or product, Lodge suggests, “Just do it. There are a million ideas out there that simply don’t get off the ground because of the mental road blocks we put up for ourselves. I had zero idea about fashion or business before starting my company. But I just did it. And the fear of failure (or the fear of not having any fruit to show for my labor) kept me moving forward.”
It seems like you are on the right track, Gavin.