kikaPaprika: I came, I saw, I bought

I can only obsess about the WTO (World Trade Organization), Canada, and Mexico pushing to eliminate our country's COOL (Country of Origination Labeling) on meats, fish, and produce for so long. Then I need to either A) eat a pint of chocolate mint ice cream or B) go shopping. Lest you think me above eating a pint of ice cream, tune in tomorrow for more true American confessions. For now, let me share with you Plan B: Retail Therapy, kikaPaprika style.

In March, you may recall, I theorized that by this project's end I'd be out of clothes. Shopping trips to malls and big box stores had yielded zilch USA-made apparel. What was I to do? Buy hand sewn Amish clothing?*

Thoughtful, business-savvy Jennifer VonBehren clocked in:

I wanted to tell you about a women’s clothing line that is all MADE IN THE USA! kikaPaprika is an Eco-Chic women’s clothing line that is made entirely in the good ol’ US of A! The company was founded in Aug of 2008 by Kim Shaw. Her dream was not only to make a great product for women, but to support the US economy while providing a great business opportunity for US women. I am a direct consultant for kikaPaprika and I’m proud to be a part of this wonderful company.

Delighted to hear about kikaPaprika, I contacted and interviewed its exemplary, principled founder, Kim Shaw. A few months passed before empty closet syndrome set in. I wanted something new for summer; something U.S.-made yet not Amish. I emailed sales consultant Jennifer, asked where I could see kikaPaprika clothing. Sold exclusively via in-home parties, the still-young company currently has sales consultants in over 20 states throughout the country; none as yet in northern California. But the company's dynamic duo owners--Kim and her clothing designer-daughter Kirstyn--were headed to my neck of the woods in San Francisco. Kirstyn's friend / fellow UCLA alum, Shannon, would be hosting a kikaPaprika party, complete with brunch. Would I like to come? Absolutely.

Fast forward to Saturday, June 11th: I came, saw and yes, definitely bought. As dozens of guests streamed into the charming, light-filled city apartment, I sampled Shannon's delicious egg casserole, sipped a mimosa from a pretty fluted glass, chatted with Kim and talented designer Kirstyn. Such fun. I had, of course, already browsed the kikaPaprika website, but with women's clothing there's no substitute for seeing, touching, and trying on. Kirstyn Shaw has done the impossible: created a soft, comfortable, beautifully made women's clothing line that appeals to and looks good on buyers of varying shapes, heights and ages. Pretty amazing.

In between helping me and other shoppers find the right sizes and styles (color isn't an issue; all kikaPaprika apparel is available in 12 different "signature" colors as well as custom colors, if desired), Kim asked how my Buy-U.S.A. project is coming along. I told her the truth. I feel like a tiny fish swimming against the current. Plus, lately I've been reading highly respected economists who theorize that buying American is un-American, even xenophobic. "It gets discouraging," I said. "How can economists make the desire to buy an American-made product sound bigoted? It's counterintuitive." Kim sighed. "Look, there are plenty of highly qualified economists who would say just the opposite." She promised to email some names to me. You can be sure I'll talk with these experts and share what I learn here.

I asked Kim if she was still determined to keep manufacturing her clothing line in Los Angeles. "Absolutely. We will never go to China." When I interviewed her in March, she'd explained how visiting various U.S. cities that looked like ghost towns helped her make a conscious decision to keep jobs here. Now, as I looked through racks of gorgeous clothes designed by her daughter, Kim again underscored how important it is to keep even low paying jobs here. It's not politically correct to say so, we both agreed, but the fact is a college education is not in the cards for everyone. I mentioned the statistics. "Over seventy percent of our adult population only has a high school education, if that. They need and want jobs." Kim says her factory workers like what they're doing. "They truly enjoy the structure and the routine," she said. "They form friendships with fellow workers. They like earning money. They're grateful."

*

After the party, I walked along the city's streets, past dress shops and restaurants and throngs of people. Gusts of chilled sea air moved me along. I wrapped my sweater around tighter, and hoped this badly needed dose of American-made retail therapy would keep me going for the next few months.

Thanks, kikaPaprika. It’s a privilege to buy a product that stands for something I, too, believe in.

* PS: The Amish may dress plainly but they know what they're doing businesswise. According to U.S. Small Business Administration figures, only half of newly opened companies will last even five years. The exception? The Amish. Amish businesses have a whopping ninety-five percent success rate. I'll cover this topic in depth (well, my version of depth) as soon as I finish reading Eric Wesner's fascinating book, Success Made Simple: An Inside Look at Why Amish Businesses Thrive.