Having recently had his third child, Ben realised the difficulty of finding gifts that were not the usual pottery or silverware. Growing up with a handyman Father and Mother with a passion for painting, it all but made sense for him to create handmade gifts that are luxurious and perfect for those special celebrations.
How did Plaay? come to life?
The idea began following the birth of my third child Parker and after realising a gap in the gift market for high-end luxury wooden toys. Currently, customers looking for alternative gifts for special occasions are faced with a barrage of pottery and silverware gifts. We wanted to change this and decided to create an heirloom luxury wooded toy line that is elegant, simple and ooze quality.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
As designers, artists and parents of three children, we have many influences. The first line started with my family at home, where we began brainstorming designs and ideas for the range. Our inspiration came from our children, their favourite toys, favourite films. We took walks to the shops, long hours of internet research and countless prototypes with tests using a wide range of materials and application methods.
Three years of development, testing, and encouragement from friends and family resulted in various designs brought to life that we are passionate about. For the name, we decided on the '?' in Plaay? as it eludes to the diversity of the toys. They can be played with or used as ornaments in a child's bedroom or can even be found in an office for those playful adults in us.
We eventually concluded on nine designs for the launch with a mix of traditional themed characters and all with a contemporary luxury finish.
All products are handmade from solid FSC approved Oak. All the toys have unique design aspects and bespoke features such as soft-touch fabrics, leather materials, calming and realistic colour tones. Each one also has the iconic Plaay? logo engraving.
"Honestly, there is nothing like it on the market. We like to delight our customers by creating a magical gifting experience from the toy itself to the moment it is unboxed."
What can we expect to see next Plaay?
We have huge plans for the brand, including growing our retail presence across the UK and overseas. We have held positive conversations with a US distributor to sell to the US market and received several offers to serve the European market.
We have two new additions joining the Plaay? family that launch in December this year. These both form part of my second collection of Plaay? and include a Hare and a Lion. The work does not stop here; we have started work on several designs, which we plan to share later next year - all traditional themed characters with a twist!
Bespoke work continues to be a busy element of the business as well. Many clients request custom toys that become their mascot for their retail offering, exciting for all involved. We hope to be in a position to share more of this work with you very soon.
What makes Plaay? toys a unique gift this festive season?
Honestly, there is nothing like it on the market. We like to delight our customers by creating a magical gifting experience from the toy itself to the moment it is unboxed. We have created a range of unique traditional wooden toys with a twist! The magic of Christmas starts and ends with a gift from Plaay?. A toy to play with and pass on for generations to come.
Has technology killed the traditional toys?
I wouldn't say that technology has killed the market. For me, technology has opened up the market and allows additional diversity and options for the consumer. Here at Plaay? we are also eager to offer innovation and variety in the wooden toy market, giving it a new lease of life whilst keeping traditional elements with a contemporary luxury finish.
What's your favourite festive spot in London?
Tricky question as there are so many great spots - for me, it would have to be walking down Oxford Street with a hot coffee, taking in all the magical lights, followed by ice skating at the National History Museum.
What are your most cherished Christmas memories?
A huge part that was and still is, is the build-up to Christmas, the shop windows, carols, the smell of pines, roasted sweet nuts and the cold, crisp nights. Family Christmas dinners and pulling crackers (I always got the worse jokes) to the deck of small cards that I could never play with. The struggles of sleeping on Christmas Eve and trying my best to stay awake for Santa. To this day, I remember hearing his footsteps on the roof and the jingle of the bells. Christmas is my favourite time of the year, more so now, having my three children to enjoy it with.