How Paper Cape is Finding its Niche With a Sustainable Answer to ‘Fast Fashion’

Today we meet Alex Golden, founder and CEO of kids apparel brand Paper Cape. A veteran of corporate retail, having previously worked at Gap.Inc., Alex took the plunge into entrepreneurship by creating her own company, and hasn’t looked back since. With a passion for design and a strong focus on sustainability, Paper Cape is all about classic, durable clothing that is designed to stay in the family for generations. But how to stand out in a business that’s still dominated by large chains and fast fashion? Let’s hear how Alex has turned Paper Cape from a passion project into a thriving business!

Hello! Perhaps you could introduce yourself?

Hi! I’m Alex. I’m a mom of three in San Francisco and I founded the kids apparel brand Paper Cape two years ago. Previous to Paper Cape, I spent almost a decade at Gap Inc. but entrepreneurship bears little resemblance to corporate retail. Paper Cape is my full time job but I’ve designed it to be flexible so that I can tailor my schedule to be present for my kids at their schools and as needed. In the COVID environment, this flexibility has never seemed so necessary.

Alex and Kids Paper Cape

Tell us more about your business.

The inspiration for Paper Cape was a pair of navy blue overalls that my mother-in-law saved from my husband’s toddlerhood. Each of my kids wore those overalls and they still look just as relevant as when my husband wore them in the eighties.

I set out to design a line of classic clothes that would stand the test of time in terms of being trend right but also in terms of quality. Each of our garments has “please hand me down” printed on the tag. I believe that not only are hand-me-downs the most environmentally responsible approach to children’s fashion, but I love the concept of hand-me-downs as a link between generations and childhoods.

We started with a small line of pajamas and daytime clothing but we quickly realized that our pajamas were our best sellers and we’ve focused on those ever since. We currently have a line of basic pajamas and we introduce seasonal prints and lounge dresses each quarter. As pajamas became the focus, we started hearing from customers that they wanted to dress all of their kids in matching PJs and, since our largest size was 5T, older siblings were often left out. This holiday season, we expanded our sizing to 12Y and we plan to carry that strategy forward.

Kids in Paper Cape PJs

What are you working on at the moment? What are the future plans?

I’m currently focused on growing our wholesale distribution. We were in 35 boutiques nationally this holiday season and we’ve heard great feedback. For the kids and baby market, we’ve noticed that customers often discover brands in their trusted local boutique. We see the top boutiques as curators who can help us build credibility and who are great sources of feedback.  

We will always sell direct and are always trying to grow that channel because we love direct contact with customers and, of course, higher margins are a benefit, but acquisition costs are so high that we know it will take time to grow our audience. We’re currently thinking about whether there’s a creative way to reach new customers outside of the obvious and crowded acquisition channels.

What are your biggest challenges? What motivates you?

I am creative at heart, so designing – whether it be prints, new silhouettes, or marketing materials is something that gives me energy. My biggest challenge is trying to innovate when keeping up with current demand can fill my whole week. I’m trying to automate some of the order processing and other tactical work that stands in the way of more strategic projects.

Paper Cape Behind the Scenes

What kind of marketing or other initiative has turned out to be the most effective for your business so far?

Connecting with other entrepreneurs and supporting each other has been very effective in reaching new audiences. Micro-influencers are similarly great partners with very engaged audiences.

What is the best business advice you can share with others?

Some advice that I’ve been focused on this year is identifying those initiatives that will have an outsized impact on the future of the business and putting aside some less impactful busywork to take the big risks that may reap big rewards. I’m prone to being ruled by my inbox and making incremental progress rather than stepping back and prioritizing the game-changing work to be done.

Could you recommend any books, movies, podcasts, learning materials?

My favorite podcast for business inspiration and advice is “How I Built This”.  For ecommerce specifically, I like “Loose Threads” and Lumi’s “Well Made”.

Paper Cape

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