Most New Yorkers are already acquainted with Parachute, thanks to the brand’s catchy subway ads, but now they’ll be able to test-drive products at the 129 Grand Street location, from bedding to bath towels to napkins, before taking the plunge. We spoke with the company’s founder, Ariel Kaye, about the new location’s design, upcoming products, and of course, her favorite pair of sheets.
Was expanding the brand to include brick-and-mortar stores always part of your plan?
When I started the company, I knew I wanted to open a store within the first two years. We began solely as a bedding brand, which is a category where ninety percent of purchases historically are made offline. I believe the bedroom is the most important room in the home for people. You spend a third of your life in bed, and sleep is so important. Bedding is tactile and sensory-driven; people are always going to love to touch and feel, so it’s important to have stores. We see our customers come in and lose their confusion. They know what they want. They figure out how to mix and match colors and styles. Those customers become really valuable to us—they become advocates and bring back their friends.
We opened our first location in Venice, California, in May 2016. It’s connected to our office. Even today, when we’re in the back we can overhear customers talking, and it’s like a mini-focus group for us. We opened in Portland, Oregon, in 2017, and New York will be our third location. I lived in New York for many years, so opening a store here is like a homecoming for me.
When did you decide to launch product categories beyond bedding?
The plan was always to expand into multiple categories. I started with bedding because it’s a great entry point for connecting with the customer. My thinking was that if we could create an environment where people were having the best night of sleep of their life, that’s a great way to build a relationship and to build loyalty. We waited two years before we launched bath, and today we also have kitchen and baby. The next category, which I’m personally very excited about, will be a pet category with dog beds and that kind of thing.
Tell me more about how you use your stores as community centers?
We host events and workshops, different fun in-store activations. Whether it’s for a new product launch or a holiday bizarre, we’re curating things all the time. We just had a gallery opening in our Portland store, where we brought local artists in and they hung up their art. We also have a beautiful garden in the back of that store where we’ve hosted barre classes, meditation workshops, and flower-arranging workshops.
Our events are less about creating a special VIP environment, and more about what we think our customers would enjoy. There are a lot of businesses that are transactional, they discount heavily, they incentivize on the first purchase; we’re all about the relationship. Our stores are designed to sell products, but they’re also designed to be really cool spaces that people can have great memories in, and when they’re ready to shop they’ll think of us.
What will the programming look like at the New York store?
We’ll do some of the things we’ve already been doing, like flower arranging, but we’ll also launch speaker series and panels with entrepreneurs and designers. Part of our strategy with building out our stores is to make them feel more like homes than stores. The New York location has a living room space. We’re going to be hosting dinner parties in the center of the store, so we designed it to be able to do that. We also built a kitchen so that we can showcase our table linens in an actual kitchen, and we can have a chef come in and prepare food. There’s a sink area for the bath products, where you can wash your hands and test the absorbency of towels. We’ve launched a New York-specific Instagram and are trying to host multiple events a month and to work with other brands to keep it exciting.
Who designed the space?
We have a partnership with Jessica Helgerson. And we also tried to work as much as possible with local New York City artists. There’s a huge brass art installation in the entryway designed by Rodger Stevens, the tables are by Rooted Design & Build, the custom furniture is by Iron Oaks, and the decorative pieces come from MQuan and Pat Kim. We did the same thing with our Portland and Venice stores, and we’ll keep doing it, celebrating local designers.
For someone not located near a Parachute store (at least not yet), do you have quick, go-to recommendations for why a person will prefer percale, linen, or sateen sheets?
Percale is like your perfect white button-down shirt. It’s a little more crisp and cool to the touch. Ours is stonewashed and is made from long staple Egyptian cotton. It’s got this organic texture that’s super soft. Percale is what I sleep with, and it’s one of our most popular fabrics.
Linen is my other favorite and what I use for my bedspread. Linen is made out of flax, and is breathable, which is good for people who sleep warm. People tend to only think about linen in the summer, but it’s actually great year-round. It definitely has an organic, unpolished look, so if you’re a person who needs completely flat and smooth sheets and can’t deal with a wrinkle, linen is not necessarily right for you. But we also have a lot of people who have tried linen for the first time through us and have become die-hard linen fans.
The sateen is soft and luxurious, and ours has a more matte finish. A lot of people are scared of sateen because they think of it as a silk. But our sateen is for people who want a smooth look, more luxe and lustrous. It’s definitely more of a refined sheet.
I think what’s great about all of our fibers and fabrics is that because we don’t use any toxic chemicals or artificial dyes or finishes, you’re literally sleeping on the truest raw material. They only get softer and better with use, which is important and one of the things we work to educate our customers about. People are used to sleeping with products that have been coated in synthetics, which make them feel soft but then they dissipate and they fall apart.
How would you describe Parachute’s aesthetic?
Nothing is overly trendy. We try to make sure that everything we make mixes and matches so you can add to your collection, versus buying one very distinct look and then being stuck with it. Our customers know if they buy these products, whatever else we introduce will work together, so it becomes easier to think about that long-term investment. We are that brand for today’s modern shopper who wants their home to look cool and easy and timeless. “Perfectly imperfect” is very much who we are. For me, that’s how I try to live my life.