Interview: How DTC Home Brand Parachute Becomes A Part Of Customers' “Everyday Rituals”
The DTC brand's founder and CEO describes how it went from selling bedding online to opening experiential stores and developing one of the market's most eco-friendly mattresses
Starting as an online-only retailer in 2014, Parachute first made a name for itself as a purveyor of high-quality bedding at direct-to-consumer prices. The brand has evolved alongside competitors like Brooklinen and Casper, not to mention myriad other DTC mattress brands, each attempting to grab market share and consumer attention in an increasingly crowded field.
After starting in the bedroom, Parachute has developed itself as a full-scale lifestyle and home brand, with a growing roster of brick-and-mortar retail spaces. This month, the brand releases its own take on the DTC mattress, taking an eco-friendly and high-end approach via 100% cotton, New Zealand wool and white glove delivery service. PSFK spoke to founder and CEO, Ariel Kaye, for her insight on brand building and thoughtful product design.
Could you describe the Parachute Brand? What's your ethos?
Parachute makes modern bedding and bath essentials for a more comfortable home. Born in Venice Beach, our products are designed in Los Angeles and responsibly manufactured by the world's best artisans.
I founded Parachute in 2014 as an online-only, direct-to-consumer company focused on creating impeccable bedding products. We’ve since expanded our product offerings beyond the bedroom into many areas of the home, including bath, tabletop, nursery, gifts and decor. In 2016 we opened our first brick-and-mortar store in Venice, California. We currently have five store locations (Venice Beach, Silver Lake, New York City, Portland, OR., San Francisco), and plan to open 20 stores by 2020.
What gaps or unmet consumer needs did you notice in the DTC home and bedding space? How does Parachute respond to them?
We recognized that there was an opportunity in the market for a truly next-generation, premium eco-hybrid mattress. We made it our mission to develop a product that provides the quality and craftsmanship of a classic heritage mattress with the convenient shopping experience customers have grown to expect.
We developed the Parachute Mattress to answer the thousands of customer requests we received seeking our mattress recommendations. We’ve always thought about what a Parachute mattress might look like, and it was about two years ago that we began to seriously research the category, determined what was missing in the market, and started meeting with manufacturers to find the right partner to bring our vision to life.
How does the mattress help further establish Parachute as a lifestyle brand, not just a company that sells home goods?
It has always been our mission to provide elevated essentials for a more comfortable home—and what could be more essential or comfortable than an exceptional mattress?
While we launched as a bedding-focused brand, it’s our intention to continuously expand into new product categories, and into rooms beyond the bedroom. We know that our customers are designing their spaces as a whole, not room by room. We want to be a part of the everyday rituals in all areas of the home, from the mattress and bedding in the bedroom, to the towels and robes in the bathroom, to the table linens in the kitchen. The Parachute Mattress brings us one step closer to providing that complete experience.
Can you describe your R&D process? How do you incorporate customer feedback?
We started by developing a prototype of our vision: a next-generation, premium eco-hybrid mattress. We worked closely with our fourth-generation mattress manufacturer to ensure that every aspect of our mattress is uniquely Parachute: thoughtfully designed using the highest quality materials, meticulously crafted, eco-friendly and exceptionally comfortable.
For the 6-8 months prior to launch, we product tested the mattress with members of the Parachute team, friends of the brand, investors and partners, which has provided us with phenomenal feedback. Our testers included couples, families, single sleepers and people with pets to understand how the mattress worked for a variety of different lifestyles. We also included people who sleep on a variety of different mattress types, including foam, gel and traditional springs, to take a number of preferences into account.
We used their feedback to help us perfect our mattress, such as adjusting the placement and support of the internal coils to provide firmer support in some areas, and softer support in others. We developed a strong prototype from the start, though—our final product is actually quite similar to our initial prototype!
Why did you decide to use natural materials like wool, instead of foam? How do you talk about sourcing and manufacturing to your customers?
When we set out to create the Parachute Mattress, we developed a list of everything we didn’t want it to include: no adhesives, no petrochemicals, no chemical flame retardants, no gimmicky material— just quality materials that anyone can understand. That’s why every material within our eco-hybrid mattress—100% organic cotton, tempered steel and Pure New Zealand Wool—is eco-friendly, non-toxic and sustainable.
Unlike foam and latex mattresses, which tend to deteriorate, change in feel and offer less support in just a few years, we wanted to create a mattress that will provide a consistently superior sleep experience for years to come. The internal coils also provide a more breathable mattress than foam, allowing air to circulate freely and provide an extraordinarily comfortable sleep experience.
Additionally, Pure New Zealand Wool is all-natural, sustainable, hypoallergenic, breathable and moisture-wicking, naturally helping sleepers stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Because wool is naturally flame resistant, no chemical flame retardants were required to create our mattress. Such chemical flame retardants are highly toxic; wool, on the other hand, is self-extinguishing.
As with all of our products, we share details on the materials and manufacturing of the Parachute Mattress on its product page. For us, it’s always important that we provide this level of education for our customers so they can shop with confidence.
Did restricting the number of options available improve the experience of shopping for a mattress? How did you ensure that one mattress will work for all sleepers?
We created the Parachute Mattress to provide our customers with the most comfortable, restorative and luxurious sleep experience possible, leveraging impeccable materials and superior craftsmanship to offer the ideal blend of softness and support for the greatest number of sleepers.
The Parachute Mattress is also beautifully made-to-order; we work closely with our manufacturing partner to craft each Parachute Mattress upon its purchase.
Your NYC store is set up like an apartment with a functioning kitchen, living room and bedroom to let people more easily envision how products will work. What advantages did you design into your experiential store over a more traditional mattress shop?
All of our stores are designed to feel more like gathering spaces, welcoming customers to relax and engage with our people and product more authentically.
How do you streamline the delivery (and potentially the returns) process?
The Parachute Mattress ships to customers in a streamlined box via complimentary white glove delivery to provide the most convenient shopping experience possible, including disposal of the customer’s former mattress. The Parachute Mattress is backed by a 10-year limited warranty, and a 90-day risk-free trial.