I first met Kessa in one of the first classes we did at the workroom, the ‘Quilt-as-you-go-tote“. I remember Kessa pulled out the most incredible selection of vintage fabrics for the project that made me rather envious. She then proceeded to make the most adorable little tote bag with her ‘scraps’. It was not at all surprising when she had started making kids clothing from re-purposed fabrics for local craft fairs. It’s incredibly inspiring for me to see how she’s built her company and developed her playful designs since then. Not only is everything produced in small batches right here in Toronto, but most items are made to grow with your child by including generous armholes, roll up cuffs and expandable waistbands. Brilliant!
Patouche will be one of our lovely vendors at the upcoming Kids Trunk Show. Though the show is themed for kids, it’s really just an excuse to have some extra fun with decorations and goodies to eat. I guarantee there will be lots of things for everyone.
Tell us about the moment that Patouche was born. What made you decide to take the plunge?
Kessa : Patouche was born after an inspired trip to the workroom. I went to the craft swap, I think the first one soon after you’d opened, and returned with a bag full of scraps of fabric. After the kidlets went to bed that night, I got out my old sewing machine and worked on a little dress for my daughter. It turned out so cute, I hung it up on my kitchen hutch and it hung there for about a week. It made me smile every time I saw it: I was so pleased with this “something” that I’d made from “nothing”. I’d been looking for a creative outlet that I could work on from home (I was staying at home from with my two little kids at the time after working as a scenic artist and designer for the ballet and theatre). Once I started I couldn’t stop. I signed up to be apart of a show at the Gladstone took over the kitchen for two weeks to make as much as I could for the show. After my hubby found a pin in his dinner, we figured I needed to make room for a studio in the house.
Is there a story behind the name, ‘Patouche’?
Kessa : Patouche is what my sister and I used to call our little brother. I’ve also learned that it means “little feet” in Quebecois and your friend Natalie told me at the last Kids Trunk Show that in Arabic it’s what you call a baby so cute and chubby you just want to eat them. I hope I remembered that right.
You recently went through an entrepreneur program to help you start your business. Which one was it and what were the most useful things you learned from it?
Kessa : I was lucky enough to be a part of the OSEB (Ontario Self Employment Benefit) program at the Toronto Business Development Centre. It was amazing being in a group of such diverse cultural, socio-economic and work-history backgrounds. The one common element we shared was a desire to create our own company. One of the most valuable lessons I learned is the value of networking. You never know where one conversation in passing will lead to and the resources you already have within your circle of friends and acquaintances.
I’m sure your two kids are your best product testers. What are the things/details they seem to love most about your clothing? Anything they’ve specifically requested or nixed?
Kessa : All of my boys wear is inspired by the fact that my son thinks he’s a pirate. When he was three everything in the house turned into a sword and shield. It was freaky. He tried carrying his various bits of weaponry (back scrubber, wooden spoons, knitting needles) in his pant’s belt-loops or waistband. I fought it at first, but finally gave-in. I made a pair of pirate shorts for him, complete with a little loop on the side for stashing his swords and added a little treasure pocket on the side. He wore them for three straight days and when I finally snuck them in to the laundry, he cried. Now he only wants to wear Patouche clothing. If there aren’t any pieces clean, he strolls into the studio in the morning requesting samples.
My three year old daughter is a little harder to please. At my first One of a Kind show this past spring, she walked in to my booth and asked, “Where’s the purple? Apparently she was not impressed with my color palette for spring 2009. Oh, and now she thinks she’s a mermaid. So, thank goodness for Heather Ross.
What is your earliest crafting memory from childhood?
Kessa : I remember being at a festival of “olden days” while on a camping trip with my family. There was a woman there making corn-stalk dolls. I remember watching her for hours (while the rest of the kids chased each other around with snakes). Finally she let me make one myself. I brought her home and accessorized her with a little head scarf, just to modernize her look a little. She’s probably still in a box at my parents’ basement.