kikaPaprika: Maybe I Won't Have to Wear Amish Clothing After All

Last night ABC World News with Diane Sawyer's {Made in America} reporters asked random people on the street if they had any idea where their clothing had been made. They didn't. They were asked to check the tags on their clothing and remove anything that hadn't been made here in the good ol' USA. Well, people were taking off Made in China jackets and sweaters left and right. They would've taken off more but ABC has its standards. Too bad. Had they ended up naked as jaybirds maybe the country would've ignored Charlie Sheen for two minutes and paid attention to America's hijacked clothing industry.

By some estimates, 97% of America's clothing is imported. Seems more like 100% to me, but that 3% of domestic-made clothing must be out there somewhere. I'm guessing it's all in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, where the Amish {I just love these electronics-free, peaceful souls} live, farm, make cotton fabrics and sew their clothes by hand. Amish clothing remains my go-to place should I eventually run out of other options. {Besides, Don would look Harrison Ford / "Witness" handsome in Amish men's clothing.}

Reading about my desperate need for USA-made women's clothing that's up-to-date and decidedly un-Amish, thoughtful Jennifer VonBehren emailed me:

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.

After perusing the kikaPaprika website (where you'll find an explanation for the name), I gave president and co-founder Kim Shaw a call at her Los Angeles office. First and most important question: Is everything kikaPaprika sells truly made here in the USA? What about the fabrics?

"Our clothing is cut, sewn and dyed right here in the garment district in downtown Los Angeles," Kim Shaw explained. "We buy our cotton from a variety of places: a lot of it comes from California and a lot from Pakistan, a bit from India; we don't buy anything from China. We would buy all our cotton here if we could. It's tough to be able to get enough of it."

"We work with small contractors--10 to 25 people--and look for other family-owned businesses. We develop close relationships with these people. This can be a competitive, cut-throat industry. There's a good ol' boy network. But we've found six to seven small warehouses to work with. Things are going well. We did $1.7 million in business last year. Double what we did the year before."

Prior to founding this business, Shaw worked for a scrap-booking company. "The company earned $100 million, but I made nothing. I decided to see what else was out there. I took a year, looked at lots of different businesses geared toward women, and really tried to see what women wanted that wasn't available. I kept hearing that they wanted soft, comfortable clothing. Meanwhile my daughter Kirstyn, who had graduated from UCLA, decided to follow her passion and go into clothing design."

It would be several years before the kikaPaprika stars finally aligned in just the right way. Kirstyn earned an advanced technical degree from the prestigious Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) in Los Angeles. And mom / founder Kim, after trying out various designers, was ready to bring her talented designer-daughter on board. From the get-go, the pair made a winning team. They've been working together since 2007. The company launched its retail line, available through independent direct sales consultants (via in-home parties clients host for friends), in 2008.

I asked Kim how she made the decision to manufacture here in the USA. "We had planned to manufacture overseas. That's what my investors wanted. The profit margin is higher. But as I traveled across the country, especially in the south, I saw all these places where businesses had left or gone out of business. There were ghost towns. I told my investors we had to stay here, bring jobs to Los Angeles."

The company is "eco-friendly." But Shaw says what's even more important these days is that the clothing is Made in the USA. Her customers are passionate about that.

Manufacturing clothing in Los Angeles has other advantages. "Actually," Kim said, "with my line it's better to be right here. We can make changes quickly as needed." While other clothing lines create samples for market week and sell five times a year (planning a year ahead), kikaPaprika produces its line up front and sells it continuously. All the clothing is white and dyed to order. The company does two seasons a year. Pricing runs $30-$50 for tops; $70-$90 for jackets; $45-$70 for bottoms.

The owners of companies that manufacture in the USA share a common love for this country and an unshakeable determination to create and keep jobs here. They also value the relationships they have with everyone involved in making their products. These companies are downright inspiring. I want to buy their products.

And if that's not enough, listen to this: kikaPaprika is committed to improving the lives of women and families; especially women in challenging situations. To that end, Kim and Kirstyn Shaw came up with a creative idea. Each year they include scarves for sale in their clothing line. All the profit from each scarf helps pay for the finish work on garments that will then be donated to women's shelters and work programs. In 2009-2010, kikaPaprika donated clothing valued at $250,000. When kikaPaprika employees bag up clothing for unemployed women who will be wearing their clothes to job interviews, they often add a personal touch. They write notes of encouragement and put these notes in each bag. Kim Shaw frequently receives follow-up emails from women who've received donated clothing, thanking her and sharing good news about successful job interviews that resulted in employment.

To date, kikaPaprika has independent sales consultants in 21 states across America. For more information on how to purchase this Made in the USA, "eco chic" organic knit casual wear, visit the company's website.

Thanks, kikaPaprika, for keeping jobs in America, giving back to other women, and giving me a "chic" alternative to Amish clothing.