PatPat designer Sandi Graham on Paw Patrol apparel – and dressing kids like kids

With ranges that include Smurfs and Care Bears, designer Sandi Graham explains why PAW Patrol is a great fit for PatPat

Sandi, PatPat Apparel recently announced a new PAW Patrol clothing collection. To kick us off, what’s your background? How did you come to be working at PatPat?
My career started at Gap where I spent over eight years in merchandising, mostly working in the baby areas like Baby Gap and Old Navy Baby. After time, I became tired of the traditional corporate life where so much time and energy were spent in meetings…

You wanted to be closer to the coal face?
Exactly. As I climbed the corporate ladder, I felt more and more removed from the product, which is my true passion. This led me to the exciting world of start-up. I joined PatPat when it was a very young, Silicon Valley start-up – and it’s been an exciting ride ever since!

Sandi Graham, PatPat Apparel

Tell me about PatPat, then. What’s the ethos there?
PatPat was founded by Ken Gao and Albert Wang; two brilliant Silicon Valley engineers – and dads! They felt the offerings in the baby and kids market were lacking. They had a vision for how to disrupt the traditional retail model, using computer modelling to help predict customer shopping habits.

“They had a vision for how to disrupt the traditional retail model.”

Over time, we created an extraordinarily strong supply chain that gives us low Minimum Order Quantities and allows us to test a ton of different products and quickly react to sales. We are FAST!

Sandi Graham, PatPat Apparel

And just so I have some context, what do you mean by fast? In real time?
Our product lifecycle, from design to online, is anywhere between two weeks and three months depending on the product category.

Wow. Okay! That makes you very nimble, presumably… And how did your partnership with ViacomCBS come about?
We met with Jose Castro at ViacomCBS about two years ago. He was gracious enough to show us the extensive Viacom properties… Paw Patrol was one that we gravitated towards, and one that would showcase our unique design skills. We’re now proud to partner with Viacom on several Paw Patrol apparel lines this summer, fall and winter – especially our family matching apparel releases.

Sandi Graham, PatPat Apparel

Why is that? What, in your opinion, makes this collection especially interesting?
Our new process for IP is that we start out with our ‘blanks’. These are pre-made basic tees and one-pieces that we can quickly screen print and get online. From the time we signed our deal, until we were online selling our PAW Patrol blanks, was just six weeks… That’s including the entire approval process. As I mentioned, WE ARE FAST.

And speed aside, are there other reasons for that strategy?
Yes, absolutely. This ‘blank strategy’ allows us to test what IP artwork collections are most popular, what is the percentage of boy vs. girl, what sizes sell the best, and so on… We can then design our fashion collections more strategically. We’ll launch our PAW fashion collections in August, in-line with the premier of the new PAW Patrol movie.

Sandi Graham, PatPat Apparel

In terms of creativity, then, how did this range develop? What was the process?
At PatPat, we have a huge team of designers working on many collections simultaneously and the process for each designer is a bit different. For me personally, colour and pattern are what really inspire me. PAW has an tremendous amount of assets – and the creative assets they provide are incredible! So I looked for patterns and colours that really spoke to me, and built the collection from there.

“Kids have plenty of time to dress like grown-ups. For now, let them dress like kids.”

I’ve been in the kid and baby business for over 20 years and my number-one goal is always to create fun, colourful and comfortable clothing where kids can look like kids. They have plenty of time to dress like grown-ups, so for now, let them dress like kids.

Sandi Graham, PatPat Apparel

Why is now the right time to launch this collection? And what makes PAW Patrol such a good fit for you?
We launched our blanks as soon as they were ready, but as for our upcoming fashion collections, we’re thrilled that we can launch in August – the same time as the new PAW Patrol movie comes out. Then we will launch our Halloween and Holiday collections shortly after. It’s going to be a great Q3 / Q4 for PatPat and PAW Patrol! In terms of fit, PatPat sells animals very well, so if an IP is animal based, it is right up our alley.

What’s the one question I haven’t asked that perhaps I should?
What do I love most about working for PatPat?

Good one! And what’s the answer?
I absolutely love the fast-paced environment. It’s so exciting be able to quickly make decisions and move forward. There are no meetings to prepare for more meetings! I also love that – because we control the supply chain – we can take greater risks with our fashion and be able to offer something for everyone.

When I started with PatPat in 2015 we were happy with sales of $1,000 per day, now we do nine digits annually. Start-up and fast growth are challenging, so it’s definitely been a rollercoaster, but it’s a ride I’d ride over and over again.

Thank you, Sandi; this has been tremendously insightful. Thanks for making time – I know how busy you are.

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