When I see Stephanie Scarpulla skipping with her two daughters around San Francisco, I want to ask her where she buys her kids’ clothes. Chances are she’s designed them herself. Knit ponchos, tailored velvet jackets, and corduroy reversible skirts with feminine detail make loving her designs easy. Stephanie told me how much work it is to run Bluebird, her children’s’ clothing design company and new shop in the Lower Haight district of San Francisco, and how estate sales might be the best place for inspiration.
AC: What’s your typical day?
Scarpulla: Sometimes I wish I would have a typical day, one that started with a healthy breakfast and a yoga class and then a day of fulfilling work where tasks actually get finished. Usually my days start with a chaotic rush of making lunches, brushing teeth, and finding socks. Followed by school drop off, coffee with the moms at school (a necessity), and then I’m off to my sew factories, ribbon and fabric stores, estate sales, or opening the store. Every day is something different. Every day comes with challenges and little joys. Every day ends with a list by my bedside of more things to accomplish (or try to accomplish) the next day. But usually, I never make it to yoga class.
AC: How’d you get where you are?
Scarpulla: I come from a long line of seamstresses and was always taught to make things. Whether it was a found button or a scrap of floral fabric, we never threw anything away. My mother and grandmother taught me that fashion was inventive and spontaneous and that a twenty-dollar homemade dress could look couture if it fit right. I’ve also been collecting vintage clothing and textiles since I was fourteen, which is a constant source of inspiration for me. My first Bluebird piece was a little baby rib tank top, trimmed in vintage lace and fabric and we still make these.
AC: What’s the best thing about your job?
Scarpulla: Two things. First, I’ve met some wonderful people in this business—fellow designers who have been a great support to me. Second, I can pick the girls up from school at 3:00 p.m.
AC: What don’t you like?
Scarpulla: Nothing. I really love it all. I love that my girls want to be involved in the company one day. I love the people I meet. I love making pretty dresses and watching little girls twirl in front of the mirror in them. I love that I’m making something that doesn’t harm anybody, is made humanely, and right here in San Francisco. It’s hard being in business for oneself and you have to love it, or at least keep a positive outlook when things go wrong, and things often go wrong.
AC: How much money do you make?
Scarpulla: $75K a year.
My Gig is a series of stories about different careers. Trying to figure out what to do when you grow up? My Gig, which provides a quick glimpse into a person’s work life, may inspire you!
Photo courtesy of Bluebird