La Paloma Founder Jen Pinkston muses about the beautiful moments with her family as she builds her successful business.
By Carla Sullivan, Photos by Aaron Pinkston
If you happened to be riding in the passenger seat with Jen Pinkston, founder of La Paloma, on one oddly cool night in May 2019 from Sour Duck to her home in Crestview that she shares with her husband and two daughters, she might have revealed the thoughts that were bubbling to the surface that evening. A handful of hours earlier, she had scooped up the kids from preschool, drove to Milk and Cookies to refuel and then let them run wild on the fossil-filled banks of Shoal Creek.
Once they had chased enough dragonflies, pleaded to take home enough “gems” (i.e. rocks) and got their small trainers sufficiently drenched, Pinkston drove to the east side and enjoyed dinner with friends while the kids played with chalk nearby. Had you been sitting next to her on that car ride home, she might have told you how magical that day was or of the gratitude she felt to have spent such a lovely evening with her children and friends, gratitude for the seemingly fleeting season of motherhood to small children.
Spark of Inspiration
It was only an hour later, while yanking a pilling-pajama over her youngest daughter’s head, that she felt the incongruence of this magical season with the pajama options that filled their closet. “My oldest daughter has always loved art,” Pinkston says. “She enjoys going to the museums, to art camps. She decided on her own to be Frida Kahlo last year for Halloween. But when I went to the internet to search for high-quality sleep or loungewear in modern, artful prints, it didn’t exist. Everything felt like an ode to yesteryear or super juvenile and not inspiring. Most people have an idea and then do the research. But when I had the idea I had already done the research. I had been searching for weeks for the things they wanted to sleep in and knew there was a hole in the market.”
Jen Pinkston Launches La Paloma
La Paloma launched their website in May of 2020, just one calendar year later. But in a world that would have been unrecognizable 12 months earlier. She had one kid doing kindergarten over Zoom and hadn’t spent an hour away from either of her children in months. “It felt like a strange time to launch a new business. But we were so far down the track at that point that there was really no turning back,” she says. It turned out to be a great time to be in the loungewear business.
La Paloma launched with just one style: their signature 100% cotton house dress for kids that features a three-quarter-length puff sleeve and elastic neckline that allows kids to get themselves dressed with ease. Over the last two years they’ve added classic organic cotton pajama sets in long and short versions, two-piece ribbed knit sets, matching house dresses for women and other coordinating accessory items like mini pillows and padded headbands. The brand launched nationwide on J. Crew in September and can also be found in idyllic shops like Poppy Marché in Montecito, Pitt Street Kids in Charleston and The Getalong in Nashville, among others.
A Familiar Audience
“It’s pretty surreal to see the way people have taken to these pieces. We’ve never used focus groups or market research; they’ve simply been developed with myself or my own kids in mind. Our women’s house dress is great because kids love to match their parents; it’s wild to see how giddy they get when they see we’re wearing the same thing. But it was actually born from years of sharing vacation homes with friends and the conundrum of which pajamas you should pack that you can look cute in when you’re hanging out after the kids are asleep and feel appropriate when you wander into the kitchen the next morning to make coffee.”
When asked what’s next for La Paloma, Pinkston says she’s focused on growing a sustainable, profitable business. “We’ve seen triple-digit growth almost every month for the last year. It’s exciting but can be tenuous, too, for a business that’s self-funded. We’re always having to think about cash flow. I’m pretty enamored by the idea of a La Paloma brick-and-mortar shop at some point. Fabric this soft is meant to be felt in person. Right now, though, we are really focused on the digitally native side of our business and our drop ship partners like J. Crew this coming year and hope to be able to do some exciting things in the brick-and-mortar realm in 2024. There are so many other products that we are chomping at the bit to develop. But for now we are focused on our core business and will see what’s in store after that (pun intended).”