Wanderlust Kids Co. Offers Affordable, Handmade Clothes by Rachel Bone
Have you noticed that the craft vendor game at the downtown Sunday Farmer’s Market has been upped?
Once your face is sufficiently stuffed with mini-donuts and you’ve draped a tote bag with enough obscure roughage to match your pretend-healthy-eater smirk, it’s time to check out the prepared foods & craft sections. Not only is there now a smattering of bespoke hard alcohol and fancy granola to be had at 7am, but there are notable artisans as well.
Behold the impressive reclaimed wood furniture, complicated inlay cutting boards, and… wait… is this possible? Cool children’s clothing being made in Baltimore?
Smell ya later, scratchy appliquéd granny onesies. Say hello to Baltimore’s newest and hippest kid’s clothing line, Wanderlust Kids. The line was founded in 2016 by Baltimore mother-of-two, Kimberly Upchurch in Fells Point.
The shop features Upchurch’s own line of handmade children’s rompers, dresses, leggings and tops in bold, contrasting patterns. They are sold alongside a small collection of other carefully selected brands of shoes, sunglasses, cloth diapers, and more. Upchurch’s own pieces are sturdy and unique, and — compared to other small run clothing lines — reasonably priced.
A detailed, hooded sweatshirt will run you $25, a romper, $30. The shop has sales and pop-up shops featuring other mom-owned lines, as well as vending at outdoor farmer’s markets on weekends. Upchurch came up with her clothing line as a way to stay at home with her kids in 2016, but soon after creating her first designs, she came across an affordable, well placed retail space and jumped on the opportunity.
The shop took off, and along with having booming business, Upchurch has managed to find a place to bring both children to work with her on occasion, and create a like-minded community of local families. She offers resources for living the best family friendly life in Baltimore. Half of the Wanderlust website is dedicated to discounts and activities for local families at nearby parks, museums, and the like.
Upchurch has no art or business background, but as a former Political Science major and pre-law student, she went into self employment equipped with the ability to research compliance laws, and understand legal jargon — a step up from most artists. I caught up with her last week, to hear just how a stay-at-home mom found a fulfilling career while building a nurturing community for her kids at the same time. And also, the logistics of how she gets anything accomplished with a 5 year old and 18 month old constantly at her side.
What is the backstory to Wanderlust? How old is the business? Is your background in business or art or something else?
I started making clothing and embellishing shoes for my son when he was one year old, at the time I was a junior in college at UMBC studying Political Science and Urban Policy. I have no experience with art or business. Once I finished college, we had our daughter so it made sense for me to stay home with the kids for a little while. After a few months of staying home I was eager to do something outside of the house so I decided to start selling the clothes I was making for the kids at the Farmers Market. I found the store at the end of July through the owner of Diablo Donuts. We renovated and I opened up shop on September 16, 2016.
How did you come to open not just a line of clothing, but a physical retail spot?
I never planned to open a store. I was content with having an online store and the Farmers Markets, but we found the store and the rent was very low and it’s in a really good neighborhood so we decided to go for it!
And you have kids of your own, do they come with you to the shop?
I have two kids, Finley is 5 and Eva is 18 months. They are with me in the shop 2-3 days a week, depending on the workload.
How much of the entire product making is you yourself doing the work? Garment Pattern design? Cutting and sewing? Everything?
It depends on the piece. I buy a lot of the patterns. I have made some though, the joggers and peplum dresses are both my patterns. I do all of the cutting, sewing, pressing, tagging, myself. Recently, I have even been designing and silk-screen printing my own designs onto solid fabrics.
I love your use of fun fabric pattern and colors. What is your inspiration for the line, and do you have a favorite place to source fabrics and notions locally? (If you don’t want to disclose the source for the fabric you use in the line, no problem)
Thanks! I don’t really have one inspiration. I take cues from the kids that come in my shop but I really enjoy contrast, whether it be a contrasting color stitch or a dress with dinosaurs and dump trucks.
I also like combining patterns in the same garment. I think a lot of people are intimidated by pattern, especially multiple patterns, but I love it. I get fabric every way I can, from single yards at Walmart, to 50 yard bolts that my poor mailman has to carry down from Lancaster. Unfortunately, there are no fabric stores in Baltimore, besides Joann’s*. But I would love to go to New York City and explore the garment district one day!
You use your social media accounts, and even pages on your website, to promote local kids activities. You also promote discounts to family friendly venues, which as a mom, I find incredibly useful. Did you always plan to incorporate those things into your business, or did that happen organically?
I do incorporate local businesses and local activities into my business. I love Baltimore, especially South East Baltimore and I have a strong social media following. The perception of Baltimore is not that great, so I figured I would try to help! I also noticed that a lot of tourists would ask for recommendations when they were in the store so I thought I would try to get the word out about the activities that my kids and I enjoy.
I noticed you occasionally do pop-ups in other businesses. Did you start out doing craft fairs or jump straight to opening a store?
I have never done a craft fair, but I did the Fells Point Farmers Market in 2016 and now I do the Farmers Market under 83 on Sundays.
You also have started a program of doing pop-ups of other lines in your own store, mainly brands started by other moms as a way to support each other. How have you found Baltimore as a place to raise kids, in general? Is it a supportive place?
I love Baltimore and raising my kids here. I think its getting more and more kid friendly. There are some acceptable schools, more sports leagues and a lot of activities. There are a ton of families in Fells Point and Canton and everyone is supportive of one another.
What is your favorite part about doing what you do?
I love the families I get to meet and I really do love sewing. I basically get to sit around and craft/create things all day and I can spend time with my kids while making money. Don’t get me wrong, it can be incredibly stressful, but still very fun.
What are your plans for the future of Wanderlust? Any new products or events coming up?
I have a TON of plans! I am always looking to expand, do more Farmers Markets, more craft shows, and more stores. Recently, I have started selling to other stores so I have products in Maine, New York City and Philadelphia. I am hoping to add at least five more stores by the end of 2017. Eventually, I would like to design a line of tri-blend t-shirts, and solid color leggings, shorts and dresses to have manufactured.
*author’s note: Check out Domesticity Fabrics, the brand new fabric shop in Lauraville.