Behind the Brand – The Story of PaperGirl

PaperGirl is a  brightly illustrated and inspiring made in NY childrenswear line that our company manged the development and production for this past year before launching their first collection in April 2015! 

The stunning original artwork that make up each print on the garments, coordinates with a booklet (also designed and written by the designer) stored inside the garment’s pocket to inspire its little wearers to dream as individuals. Here we meet the designer Ana Bianchi behind the imaginative brand to hear her unique story:

HB: What is your inspiration behind starting a clothing company, childrenswear in particular?

PG:  I joke that I have over 5 years of market research as I am a mom of a 5 ½ year old girl. During these past few years I have shopped for her, made things for her and her room, read countless children books and spent many hours in schools and playgrounds looking at what other kids wear and what their moms like. Childrenswear has the advantage of allowing me to be more illustrative, wild and free with the designs on the textiles and was a perfect way to tell a story.

 
 

HB: What is the concept behind the Papergirl brand?

PG: At PaperGirl we create drawings on paper, inspired in nature, world cultures, art and timeless childhood fantasies. Using embroidery or digital printing, these original illustrations turn each piece into a wearable art. It is as if the dress was a page from an artist’s drawing pad or an illustrated book.

I love storytelling, and i believe in helping young minds learn and play with art, imagination and fantasy. Each illustrated garment includes a little book that tells the story –fiction or non-fiction- we’ve written about the illustration. The child can read it with you or can keep it in a little side pocket.

PaperGirl celebrates childhood curiosity, imagination and creative freedom.

HB: With over 20 years of graphic design and 15 years of branding experience under your belt, can you share a bit about the differences you’ve found between fashion and graphic design and how this affected the process of starting your business? 

PG: Graphic design has given me an organized thought process when it comes to creating something that starts with concepts and meanings before working with form and visuals. Besides typesetting and composition, It teaches about form, function, proportion, color, material, that can apply, really, to any designed piece, not only 2-dimentional printed matter and online media.

As I did not attend fashion design school, instead I learned empirically from my mother who was a talented maker of all things yarn and fabric.  In that context, I think fashion making is less conceptual and more form-and-function. It is architecture for the human body. 

 
 

HB: Every designer and artist has a different method to their madness; how do you get your creative juices flowing before you begin to design? 

PG

It is definitely a combination of words and images.  Colors can also be a starting point.  I am a big colorist and sometimes the right palette along with a theme will get me started by giving me a mood or an abstract range.

I start by picking a theme (e.i. this Summer collection was The Seas, Fall will be Into the Forest) and from there I write, in free association form, words and ideas that relate to the theme that I am interested in, i.e. for The Seas I wanted blue whales, sailor tattoos, schools of fishes, walruses, lighthouses, corals, flying fishes, etc.

As I write these idea buckets, I start gathering visual references –photos, illustrations, textiles, etc. At that point, I take a step back, pick the favorite variations on the theme, prepare a shortlist (one story per dress in the collection) and finally jump fully into working the specific story and specific art to go into a dress form I’ve designed.  The goal being to turn each dress into a wearable piece of art with a story.

HB: What was your biggest challenge in starting this business and how did you overcome this? 

PG: I do not have a fashion degree therefore there has been an accelerated learning curve for me in launching this first collection.  I stayed clear about the concept, I tried to keep things simple and functional with the parts I was not so well versed on and I spent time making things very special in the areas that I have expertise. Hiring professionals (the team at Human B) to help me with the technical aspects that I am just learning about has been key in overcoming my fashion shortcomings.

HB: How does designing your own collection compare to any expectations you had prior to starting this adventure? 

PG: LOVING IT!!  I do think I created my dream job. Especially now that people are buying PaperGirl Collection, it is a great validation and encouragement to carry on.

HB: Once the collection is made, it has to get sold! Where can we find PaperGirl? 

PG: The best place to find PaperGirl Collection is on our online store, papergirlcollection.com. Also, moms that love the collection are organizing trunk shows with their friends where I come to talk about PaperGirl as a brand and present the collection.  This has been a fun way to connect with my customers. Lastly, we are starting to appear in select boutiques in New York City and soon in other cities. 

HB: What are the next steps for PaperGirl brand? Where do you see yourself and/or the company in 5 years?

PG: As new collections are being designed now, the next steps are definitely continuing to build brand awareness and to reach out beyond New York to have brand ambassadors and boutiques in other cities and beyond. The clothing collection is just one piece of the brand which I intend to turn into a lifestyle brand that includes accessories, toys, room decor and textiles, and other things that may come and fit with the brand story. 

HB: I commend you in your success in building PaperGirl as a brand, taking into account all aspects of the fashion industry from design to production to marketing and selling. Do you have any advice for designers who want to start their own fashion business? 

  1. PG:  Work on the brand concept before you design any single piece of clothing.  Having a clear brand concept (which includes knowing very well who your customer is) facilitates your design, marketing and business decisions.   You will be able to talk about your brand story clearly and design clearly within your brand’s boundaries.
  2.  Be brave and stay focused
  3.  Hire people that know what you don't know