You’d expect the occupants of a tent might wake to the sound of bird song and perhaps the scent of pine. However, the occupants of this particular “tent” will likely see a bedroom when the door un-zips. That’s because this is really a solitary wardrobe and the occupants are trousers and shirts. It’s VUKU, our new low price, high quality wardrobe that’s inspired by smart design for campers.
It’s the first time we’ve worked with tent suppliers to create clothes storage, and we’ve learned a lot from their expertise. It expanded our perspective on what clothes storage can look like and do for our customers. “The biggest innovation that came to us from the camping industry was how to enclose space in a completely different way and at an extremely low price,” says Mark D’Souza, Product Developer for VUKU.
The product development team wrestled with the challenge of offering a quality solitary wardrobe at an affordable price. Every prototype left them unhappy because it compromised on one thing or another. “We could’ve created an affordable clothes rail with some storage below, but to really be true to what customers are looking for we needed to make a completely enclosed and dust-free clothes storage solution,” Mark explains. “And, for me, the most important part was to make a product that was quality, too. I didn’t want it to be a throwaway item.”
Unsatisfied with the product ideas they’d created, they started over, right back at brainstorming the concept of clothes storage. That’s when a new idea struck. “The realisation came up that a wardrobe is just enclosed space,” says Mark. “And what does that well? Our designer Jon Karlsson actually came up with the answer. Tents.”
Designer Jon Karlsson
Working with suppliers
To find reliable tent suppliers, the team didn’t have to look far. The makers of IKEA children’s play tents have a whole range of tent building experience, so the VUKU team headed to a factory in Vietnam to work side by side with them. “Working on the factory floor was really good,” says Mark, pointing out that several VUKU features exist, thanks to the supplier’s experience with tent design.
For instance, the skeleton of VUKU is made of fibreglass tubes, like the ones you see in many camping tents. Not only are the tubes flexible, but they become more stable when you put weight on them—an ideal feature for a hanging wardrobe. “You can actually take big, fat, heavy winter jackets and the more you put in VUKU, it just gets more steady,” says Mark. And though VUKU is small, you can fit four to six winter jackets in it (depending on how fluffy they are, of course).
The entire wardrobe simply clicks together too, no tools required, much like a camping tent. Another outdoor industry benefit: portability. “The whole thing disassembles and becomes this little sausage you can carry with you,” says Mark. After just a week of working with the supplier at the factory, a member of the VUKU team flew home to Sweden with a prototype neatly rolled and packed in her luggage.
Meeting customer expectations
Mark’s favourite feature of VUKU is the base. It’s made using the same material as the IKEA blue bag. “It helps us reduce price a lot, but it adds a lot of value too,” says Mark. “It’s stronger and more durable, and it’s more affordable.” For Mark and his teammates, creating an affordable product that lives up to all the customer’s expectations was always the goal. “I’m super happy with the outcome because we have something really strong. There’s absolutely no comparison in terms of strength and durability.”
To find out more about VUKU click here
For anyone looking for a real and exclusive sneak peek behind the scenes of the famous IKEA thinking and design, these stories give a glimpse into the process that stands for the unexpected, the unusual and the quirky.