Ali Wing loves things that function. “I put my practicality lens on
everything,” she says. As the founder and CEO of giggle, the retailer turned
multi-platform brand that focuses on baby products for city-dwelling parents,
Wing has a penchant for practical living that’s reflected not only in the
products that giggle sells, but in her approach to home and family, too.
Wipe-able surfaces, compact design and
hideaway storage—for Wing, these are priorities that let families (especially
new ones) just live. Add a punch of color and you’ve got what those who
know her best call “signature Ali” style—arguably the secret to giggle’s
Unlike many mompreneurs, though,
Wing’s savvy in the baby gear business didn’t start with motherhood, as her son
Tyler’s birth came three years after she founded the company in 2000. And
for all her urban sensibility, Wing was actually born in Santa Rosa, California and raised in Montana, and she still considers herself very
So how did this countrified non-mom come
up with a bright idea about babies before she even had one? After spending 16
years with Fortune 500 companies in various market development roles focusing
mainly on women, Wing’s “ah-ha moment” seems to have been born from that same
practicality that defines her sense of style: she saw a gap and wanted to fill
While working for Gazoontite, a now
defunct retail chain and online supplier of allergy relief products, Wing
noticed something telling: the average transaction purchase for parents buying
for their children was 3.5 times the amount customers spent when just shopping
for themselves. “I kept observing this very
changed demographic that was older, more educated and almost professional about
parenting,” she explains.
Then, when a magazine publishing project
required Wing to get to know “every manufacturer” in the juvenile industry, it
became evident to her that there was an unfulfilled niche.
“There was a proliferation of things we
can sell to parents, but really no resource to edit,” she says. For that
reason, Wing launched giggle with a single store in San Francisco in the fall of 2003, with the goal of
providing the “best of” products for new parents, from cribs and nursery décor
to baby bath tubs and potty training tools to maternity wear and clothes for
infants and toddlers.
Today, having expanded to 13 stores and a
robust web presence that includes online shopping, parenting advice, expert
“guru” blogs and now, The Cradle, an informational resource for expecting
mothers, giggle’s one-stop-shop approach to new families has earned the brand
its trademark stripes.
In fact, giggle’s color field logo and
straightforward, lower-case motto—happy. healthy. baby.—embodies the
same kind of fun, approachable simplicity that Wing herself exudes.
A tour of the three-bedroom Battery Park
apartment that Wing shares with her husband, Will and their son Tyler makes
this clear. Bright, open and airy, with wrapping glass windows, the space is
intentionally peaceful. “You can never take the Montana out of me,” Wing says with a sigh.
An oversized scarlet floor lamp from CB2
arching elegantly over the corner dining table hints at Wing’s biggest design
influence: her mother’s love of color. “I don’t think we ever had a white wall.
We always had red hallways and blue kitchens,” she says. For Wing, this meant
painting their apartment’s master bedroom a rich aqua, “the color of the
ocean.” Additional pops of color peek out from nearly every corner of the
house, from the Eames’ coat rack with its gumball-like hooks to Tyler’s preschool collection of Montessori
paintings curated in the hallway.
Wing’s other design inspiration is
family. As one of nine siblings growing up in a multi-cultural household (five
were adopted), she describes her parents as having “a unique focus on family,”
which meant furniture choices had to be functional. “We never had a living room
you couldn’t use,” she explains. Whether it was the drinking fountain they
installed in the house to replace water glasses or the stacked loft beds to
accommodate two, three and four sleepers per room, those childhood impressions
of utility proved the unlikely seeds for what she now amusingly thinks of as
another design trend. “We always had the big table that had the long benches on
the side before it was cool at Room & Board,” she says with a laugh.
That family-friendly “imprint” is why Ali
and Will have made their home completely child proof. “There’s nothing Tyler can’t jump on or hurt,” she explains—a
mantra proven true when, shortly after, the eight-year-old boy quietly and
politely borrows two pillows from the sofa to construct a fort. For Wing, she
wouldn’t have it any other way: “I never thought of it as a constraint, it was
just part of my design criteria. That’s just the way we function.”
The other priority on Ali and Will’s list
for a family home when they moved to New York City from California in 2005 was a healthy one. For that they
found The Verdesian, a luxury, environmentally-advanced development designed by Pelli
Clarke Pelli Architects.
Certified LEED platinum, the 26-story
building faces the Hudson
River and is as
good for the environment as it is for its residents. With fresh air circulation
and continuous indoor air quality monitoring (IAQ), energy efficient appliances
and a centrally filtered water system, Wing feels good knowing her family can
breathe easy, though her mother-in-law is less thrilled with their
high-efficiency dryer during visits. “She thinks our clothes are never dry,
which drives her crazy,” Ali says with a wink at her husband.
And while the dining table is her
favorite spot in the house for Sunday’s newspaper-strewn family breakfasts,
it’s Tyler’s room that excites her most on the
tour. Inside, a repurposed school locker serves as a cool dresser (“We used to
sell these at giggle”) and a brushed steel bunk bed from Room & Board
houses Grandma and Grandpa for weekend visits—at least until the adjacent
office gets a guestroom makeover.
The focal point of Tyler’s room—a large chalkboard-fronted
cabinet covered in family photos—opens to reveal what Will refers to as
“Legoworld.” Inside, deep shelves house hundreds of the interlocking bricks in
various states of construction; pullout bins keep loose toys in their place and
ready to play. “I needed to figure out something where Tyler could have storage and also feel like he
could build in this dedicated space. It can be his world,” Wing explains.
Colorful, easy-to-clean storage, covered in family mementos and designed just
a kid? Now that’s signature Ali.
Ali Wing’s Three Must Have Products For New Parents
giggle Better Basics Harper Crib in Walnut.
“This crib is everything I think baby furniture should be,” says Wing. “It’s
all about quality construction and design, responsible manufacturing and great
Multi Directional Stem Print Diaper Bag by
Orla Kiely. “Here’s a bag that you’ll find every excuse to carry long after
your child is out of diapers. It’s sophisticated and multi-functional with its
waterproof outer, foldaway changing pad and abundance of compartments and
storage pockets,” says Wing.
Personalized Ceramic Plate and Cup Set by Alex Marshall. “Each one is hand-painted
and personalized with the child’s name, so no one else will have one exactly
like it,” Wing says.