Max Barenbrug, inventor of the Bugaboo, on his high-status stroller in Babble’s 5-Minute Time Out.Gwynne Watkins
You developed the Bugaboo at the Design Academy in Eindhoven. What other projects did you work on while you were there?
I designed a bike. Bike producers design bikes either with too many functionalities – you do not need 52 gears to bike in the city – or too few – you need special break, locking system, compactness in the city.
Business Week described the Bugaboo as “the Mercedes-Benz of strollers: practical, built like a tank, and very expensive.”
As a European, I would like to compare it to an Audi – because I personally prefer that brand. I wouldn’t compare it to a tank either. I know the inflatable tires look big, but all that air means added suspension. Other strollers look and are much bigger. German strollers could be compared to a tank.
What was wrong with our parents’ strollers?
Ten to twenty years ago, all strollers were dark blue and large. But now you can choose the model that fits your lifestyle and your personality, pick your preferred color combinations, choose if your child is facing the world or you, choose to walk around in the city, in the woods or on the beach with your same stroller. I have two beautiful girls, ages three and five. As I saw the strollers in the streets back in 1994, I couldn’t picture myself behind one.
Are strollers becoming the kind of status symbol that sports cars have always been?
Strollers used to be status symbols. If you look at the first strollers, they looked more like carriages, which is not strange because they were manufactured by carriage makers, and carriages also were status symbols. From the ’70s to the ’90s, strollers degraded. Stroller manufacturers decided to produce them in a cheaper way. We at Bugaboo came at the right time with our strollers; we made them worthwhile again.
Was it initially difficult to market a stroller that costs $800?
Of course, there was some resistance, but once people actually got to ‘meet’ the stroller, they immediately understood that it was worth every penny.