Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention; but it can also be the father. Just ask photographer Zach McDuffie and television and Broadway star Matthew Morrison, who have combined forces to launch Sherpapa, a new line of bags, t-shirts, gifts and sporting gear specifically designed for fathers. (Sherpapa is currently is only available through the company’s website and on Gilt.com.)
“We became friends through our wives; and honestly, now we’re like family,” recalls Morrison, best known for his role on “Glee” as teacher Will Schuester. “About a year and a half ago, Zach and his wife had a baby. One night, we were sitting around their kitchen table in Laguna Beach and Zach was talking about how there was nothing on the market for cool and stylish dads and that so many men are just carrying a backpack or the wife’s diaper bag. So we had this conversation about creating great bags for guys that could also be diaper bags. Originally, I was just his biggest cheerleader; but I decided to help make his dream come true. And soon I’ll need my own bag, since my wife Renee and I are expecting a baby.”
The bags, some of which are made of leather and some of which are made of waxed canvas and all made in America, are decidedly multi-use and unquestionably masculine. (Prices range from $175 to $225.) “One thing that was very important to us was that the bag be very practical for a variety of uses,” says McDuffie. “The ordinary diaper bag is a single use bag that only lasts a year. We focused on selling quality, not quality. We both wanted something with classic style and that could be used as a day bag or a carry-on. I treated this as design challenge.”
The line is also created for the 30-something generation, say the pair. “I believe two things: First, the new generation of dads will definitely be more involved than the old one,” says McDuffie. “Second, this generation will set a new tone for family leadership and will have the biggest impact on how future generations act as parents. It’s all about setting a good example.”
“People know me as an actor or singer, but I want to be known as more than that,” adds Morrison. “I want to use this company and its products to inspire a new generation of proactive fathers. Zach is a perfect example of what kind of dad I want to be. More importantly, I want all dads to go on adventures with their kids, even if going out with the family is sometimes harder planning NASA launch.”
While the company’s focus is currently on bags, the founders particularly love the company’s all-cotton t-shirts (which retail for $34). “I am wearing them on a daily basis, not just out of obligation, but because they are so comfortable,” says Morrison. Adds McDuffie. “I threw out or gave away all my other t-shirts; that’s how much I love these.”
Further, Sherpapa is already planning to launch additional gift items for the fall, as well as looking for retail partners (probably small boutiques), and considering ways which the company can give back to the community (once it turns a profit).
“Our brains are constantly thinking about where we’re going next,” adds Morrison. “Going into business with your friend can sometimes strain a relationship, but I think Sherpapa has even brought us closer.”