Paulina Quintana rules Silver Lake. Not only did she recently help save Camelot Kids, the popular preschool on Rowena, but she’s also provided other neighborhood mamas (and papas) seeking arty alternatives to typical tyke-wear with a clothing-filled castle: her eponymous children’s boutique and showroom in the heart of the Junction.

A wife (to artist Robert Russell) and mother of two, Quintana‘s background in education and art, not to mention her ties to the eastside (she taught fifth grade in Echo Park), might suggest her path was predestined, but she says it was quite the opposite.

The Chilean-born daughter of a Socialist doctor came to the U.S. as a child and grew up in Sherman Oaks. After graduating from UCLA, she got a corporate office job with the Artstore. When that didn’t last, she tried teaching, and working with the Latino Film Festival, but got “burnt out” on both.

“Then I started making clothes for my niece,” Quintana recalls. “It was just bibs at first, but after I put them in a few stores like Uncle Jer’s and Pip Squeak on Third Street, it just took off.”

Loads of great press and a rep later, she started designing a full line, which has become a staple in funky children’s shops all over the world for six years now. Three years ago, after getting pregnant with her first and not wanting to schlep to downtown where her original showroom and design studio were located, Quintana decided to open up shop/show room in S’Lake, where she also lives.

Talk about a smart decision. Silver Lake is a veritable stroller derby these days, and Quintana’s cool baby threads (for newborns to 6-year-olds) and metallic diaper bags are exactly what the hip breeders want to buy.

“The Silver Lake customer is very specific. Definitely not mainstream,” she says, “not middle America. Things that I tend to design for my taste, this area totally gets. The people in Idaho don’t get it.”

Still, Quintana has seen major success with her collections by providing a range of pieces, from simple to sassy. The color palates and patterns she creates herself have a mod yet nature-y flair, while shapes and silhouettes remain simple.

“I don’t make anything with ruffles or frills. No embellishments. It’s just very clean. Kids don’t need so much stimuli,” she says. “You know, when I was a teacher I saw a lot of stuff that was inappropriate for girls. I keep the girls’ stuff very young, not like the club wear we see on girls these days. It’s all very playful yet functional.”

Kids need to feel comfortable if they’re going to flourish, and Quintana knows this very well, especially since she’s become involved with Camelot Kids. She sent her son there when it was affiliated with Ivanhoe Elementary, but after Camelot was shut down, she helped it get back up and running. The preschool has moved across the street to the Recycler building and, after much red tape, is once again open for “little dragons” (as they call their students), with Quintana overseeing admissions. Heading a preschool, running a business and mothering two li’l ones, Quintana is definitely a busy (queen) bee.

“For me, it’s all about the community, which I definitely got from my dad,” she says, “Living and working here continues to inspire me.”


Photo by Kevin Scanlon 

LA Weekly