My name is Kerstin, and I’m the designer and maker of Paul & Paula, a kids clothing label handmade in Melbourne, Australia. I spent my first 25 years in Germany, then followed my heart to Melbourne five years ago, where I now live with my partner, our 2-year-old son, and a crazy, high energy dog.
It’s hard to explain exactly why, but I think sewing and playing around with fabric is just part of who I am. For as long as I can remember I would alter and upcycle my clothes, and spend many hours in my mum’s sewing room adding buttons, making band T-shirts smaller, and cutting up clothes I found in our attic. While studying fashion and textile technology in Berlin, I started my own clothing label and sold my handmade goods to a few shops around the city. After I moved to Australia, I worked in the fashion industry for a few years while continuing to run my little label at night. It wasn’t long before l realized that I’d rather spend time making and creating than sitting in an office.
I love the freedom that comes with designing and making kids clothing. There are no rules when it comes to experimenting with crazy designs and colors as long as it’s comfortable and made to last. I find great satisfaction in running my own label and am proud of everything I’ve been able to achieve with Paul & Paula so far.
All Paul & Paula garments are made from scratch. I design, make the pattern, cut, sew and have recently set up a screen printing area in our laundry room. I make everything from animal-themed hoodies to woollen vests to denim jeans. I don’t really have a set creative process – sometimes I start out with a sketch, sometimes I’m inspired by a beautiful fabric, but more often my creations are born from making a new item for my son. Once he gives the garment a thorough road test (as only 2-year-olds know how), I’m happy to sample different colors and start production on a size range.
One of my favorite creations was a little pilot hat I made for my boy when he was a baby. It really tested my patience. (There was a lot of unpicking and foot stomping involved.) I was so happy with how it turned out and he wore it until we couldn’t squeeze it on his head any more. As much as I’d like to make more, I’m pretty sure this hat will remain one of a kind.
I love that Etsy supports a community of like-minded creative people and can offer a small label like mine exposure in all parts of the world. I feel like most people who use Etsy appreciate the effort and care that go into making something by hand. Over the years I’ve met some wonderful people and gotten to know some of my returning customers quite well, even though they live on the other side of the globe.
It’s really important to be aware of how and where products are made. I always try to make careful consumer choices, whether it’s fabric, printing inks or furniture for our house. Shopping locally, supporting small businesses, and buying secondhand rather than new is much more rewarding.
I do what I do because making and creating makes me a happier person — simple as that. Over the years I’ve learned that a 9-5 job is not for me, and since starting Paul & Paula, I’ve come to appreciate the flexibility and freedom that working independently gives me. At the moment, I feel really lucky that I can be there for my son, while still working on something that I’m passionate about and generating income for my family. Running Paul & Paula has certainly taught me to deal with the rollercoaster ride of working for yourself. From working late into the night during busy times to the stress of unpredictable income, I still find the rewards far outweigh the challenges.