Elizabeth Street Meets Carolina Zapf
Known for her luxe yet practical approach to children’s wear, designer and mom-of-three Carolina Zapf discusses her firm belief that less is more
A love for rich fabrics mixed with clean, functional design is what led fashion designer Carolina Zapf into the children’s market. Thanks to her adorable line, Baby CZ, tots everywhere can play out their wonder years in smart clothes that go the distance. —Melissa Schweiger
How did you know you wanted to be a fashion designer?
I grew up in a design-dominated household in Germany—my father is a furniture designer for many companies, including Knoll—so it was natural that I wanted to do something in the design world. I started designing women’s clothing when I first came to New York and worked for 12 years in women’s ready-to-wear.
What prompted your transition into children’s clothing?
I started my children's clothing line in 2002, as I felt there was so much excess in the women’s fashion world—I’ve always believed that less is more and that clothing needs to be functional. Being a mom for 10 years has taught me a lot. I have a 10-year-old daughter and eight-year-old twins. My kids give me feedback all the time—good and bad. Initially, the line was all cashmere and knitwear for babies but it's grown.Designing for children is very different from designing for adults. Children will not tolerate anything uncomfortable and the clothes need to be functional.
What is your mom uniform?
Having kids has given my wardrobe a certain casualness. As a mom, you can’t be too overdressed. You should still be glamorous at night, but during the day you need to be versatile. I live in skinny jeans with t-shirts and great sweaters, and if I have to go to a meeting I’ll put on a skinny blazer. I save my dresses for nights out.
Now for the age-old question. How do you balance work and motherhood?
It gets challenging; you learn how to manage your time very precisely. I do a lot of multitasking. My business is about children, so that makes it a little easier—plus my office is across the street from where I live. My kids also really enjoy what I do.
What advice do you have for moms who want to make shopping for their kids easier?
Kids are pretty tough on their clothes. There’s a lot of washing involved, so you want clothes that hold up. I think less is more. It’s not about the quantity; it’s about having great pieces. You don’t need 10 sweaters, just one great sweater that goes with so many different things. Too many choices make things more complicated, especially when the kids start having an opinion about their clothes!