Shana Laub is the trailblazing creative force between internationally beloved children’s boutique Shan and Toad.
Stocking an eclectic mix of labels, to say that Shan and Toad has its finger on the pulse of what’s new and now would be an understatement.
Cool hunting seems to come naturally to Laub, who takes pride in introducing stylish families to the most up-and-coming labels from around the world.
It was such a pleasure to speak with Shana, who generously shares many nuggets of wisdom and insight she’s gained in her six plus years in the industry.
We launched Shanandtoad.com about 6 years ago, and it’s come a long way since then. Looking back, it seems as though kids e-commerce was just in its infancy with small shops like Shan and Toad just beginning to make a debut on the kids fashion scene.
I like to think of our store as a trend-setting boutique, always sourcing the up-and-coming, the unique, and one-of-a-kind, from all four corners of the world. When you come to Shan and Toad, you can be sure that you will discover the most fashion-forward and modish pieces.
Get more help! In the beginning, I was operating the website all on my own, aside from some technical help from our web host and a warehouse staff. I thought we couldn’t afford extra staff and wanted to keep overhead expenses as low as possible. Since then, I’ve learned how to delegate and that getting more help and manpower would only be beneficial and a worthwhile investment.
Things are changing at an unusually fast pace in the kid’s fashion industry. When we opened the shop, changes happened more slowly, but as the internet speeds up, we have all had to keep up. Most intriguing to me is how the world has shrunk, so to speak. Because of the internet, we have a global marketplace available to us, which can influence our buying strategy and direction quite a bit.
Each market is no longer isolated, but we are all doing business within a global market. This is something that we’ve embraced and that has kept things interesting. I take pride in the fact that I am curating a collection that appeals to many different kinds of people, with various cultures and interests.
I’ve also made a lot of good friends along the way, lovely people that I have never otherwise met, and that is the facet of the business that I will always cherish.
Another big change in the kid’s fashion industry would be the attention to sustainability and a respect for the environment. In the shop and in my home, this movement is particularly important to me and I am always drawn to a brand that has an eco-friendly ethos.
Whether it be a focus on artisanal work, the way their fabrics or shoes are dyed, or how the waste is handled, I am seeing an added element of transparency and a strong focus on these issues, which really resonates with my values as well. After all, we have a social responsibility and owe it to ourselves and our children to be mindful of the kind of world we’ll leave behind.
I’ve been visiting Playtime since the beginning, and boy has it grown. It is such a friendly environment, similar to the vibe that I’d hope you’d feel when visiting a website like ours: inviting, warm, and personal. I often get giddy when meeting brands and old friends that I’ve made over the years. Playtime is usually very busy for me; there is so much ground to cover in such a limited time.
I think I might be famous for being the first to arrive and last to leave, always getting in last minute buys and unable to tear myself away from all the beautiful things. Between you and me, you can also convince some of the exhibitors to sell you some of their wares and I come home with the sweetest little gifts and nick-knacks. I am that crazy gal carrying wicker wagons and scooter baskets onto the airplane.
I’ve visited Pitti Bimbo a few times, which has a very different feel, perhaps a more professional air. I enjoyed Pitti too, but am always drawn back to Playtime.
There have been times that I thought it crucial to open a brick-and-mortar, but I’ve never felt more certain now that it is completely unnecessary. Opening a brick-and-mortar would feel somehow like moving backwards. I see only benefits with online shopping, the biggest being the convenience of shopping from the comfort of your own home. I also love that we are accessible to a global audience, and we could never reach that far with a physical shop.
The most challenging aspect would be the competitive nature of this business. There are new shops opening constantly, many selling similar things. Customer acquisition and retention can be challenging and that is why it is important for us to have a strong brand image.
I think our well-merchandised collections make us stand out. On the other hand, one of the things that brings me the greatest joys is choosing a wardrobe for my own girls. I know I’ve done a good job when I can’t narrow my selection down and the girls’ closets are exploding. Their wardrobes are outrageous, complete with such unique and quirky styles.
This Spring/Summer, we’ve introduced a few new labels to Shan and Toad. One of my favorites was Fish and Kids. The collection has such a care-free, summery feel. It had me dreaming of summer since its arrival in February. Tuchinda too was so spirited and sweet, and the chicest swimwear debuted from Belle Chiara.
We had brought back Pero, my personal favorite, for the second season. The artisanal work and exquisite detail literally have me swooning, and there is something very nostalgic about seeing my girls wearing their dresses.
For Autumn/Winter, we’ll have the most avant-garde fashion arriving from a Japanese label called Unioni. I like to shake things up and this brand will definitely bring a new dimension to our selection.
We collaborate with social media influencers occasionally, but our favorite photos are the candid ones, shot by our adorable customers wearing Shan and Toad pieces.
At one point, we were collaborating with social media influencers more aggressively, but it is difficult to measure a return on investment and many of these influencers don’t coincide with the right target market. We are focusing now on influencers with a smaller presence, but with a following that is more in-line with our niche market.
The girls aren’t very much involved. They do consider me some sort of celebrity though (lol). They think that I am famous by the mere fact that I can be googled and that I have an online presence. My oldest daughter is always curious about the brands that we stock, always interested in which new brands we are picking up.
Ohhh my! Each and every one has her own unique style—we’ll leave my husband out of the conversation for now ☺︎. My youngest daughter in particular has the most outrageous style, similar to her mama! She loves layering and mixing it up. She would definitely make a fabulous stylist, even at the tender age of 3 ½.
One daughter usually goes for a more polished look, while another loves a casual-cool look. My third daughter is quite the diva and loves a good accessory. And let’s not forget my fourth, she is the perfectionist and needs each and every look to be complete. Needless to say, fashion shows are staged at least weekly, starring the most beautiful mini-models.
Shana Laub, founder of Shan and Toad