Wax + Cloth: Designed and Built in North Carolina

  • November 11, 2014
  • Written By Timothy Nguyen

Wax+Cloth is a one-man operation run by Paul Kwiatkowski out of Raleigh, North Carolina that focuses on handmade products like canvas backpacks, duffles, and totes. He was kind enough to send me some of his work so I could have a first hand experience with them. The quality and build of the products is great overall so stay tuned after the jump to hear a little bit about how Paul started and what’s next for Wax+Cloth.



Let’s start this out with a fun question. If Hansel (Zoolander) was your muse how different would your offerings be?

I’d probably have a lot more experimental pieces, and much less uniformity to things. I think generally I’d be making a mix of borderline hobo/wanderer bags, and highly polished but ultimately weird things- with no discernible commonality. Everything would have awesome names too, but names that had nothing to do with the item.

Why have you decided to go with the name Wax+Cloth (other than the obvious reasons)?

I’ve been trying to find a good name since Fall of last year. “Contrapaul” was a logical starting choice due to audience, but it didn’t give any indication of what I was doing. Beyond that, there isn’t much significance to it, and the explanation of how I came up with it is just silly. Wax+cloth is the result of months of brainstorming, and is only a recent decision. I wanted something short, somewhat descriptive, and appropriate for what I am making.Wax_And_Cloth-9

What is your main motivation behind Wax and Cloth?

It’s kind of hard to pin down a singular motivation for this. I suppose at this point there’s still a big “I think I can make this big” component, and that’s probably the strongest current motivator. “Because I can”, “It’s fun to make things”, “I love it when people like my stuff”, and plenty of other sentiments have guided things since Summer last year. Maybe the biggest single motivation is the thought that everything I put into wax+cloth can, and will pay off, and could pay off exponentially.

How much planning goes into an item before you actually make it?

I tend to dive into things with a general end goal, but not too much planning, and make changes along the way. Being pretty much entirely self taught has led to certain ‘breakthrough’ discoveries, which end up influencing designs for a time. When I first launched made to order items in Fall 2013 I was releasing designs and items that took a huge amount of time to make. Some of the designs, like my first MTO backpack ended up being a pain to assemble and took far too long to replicate. That item, and several other helped push me to spend much more time making efficient designs.Wax_And_Cloth-5

Most of what I’ve got up in the store now has either evolved from prior designs, or come about thanks to comments and requests from others. The laptop bags are a good measurable case to use here. I wrote up and sketched a bunch of Fall 2014 ideas on my tablet on a flight to Minnesota in early August. The laptop case was included, but not worked on directly until early September. By time I worked on it, I incorporated ideas from other projects I’d done, drew up dimensions, and built two ‘final’ first draft pieces. Thankfully they turned out great, and I finished up dimensions for two sizes, a visual guide to pieces needed, and checked it off the list.Wax_And_Cloth-13

Why did you choose canvas over all the other materials you could have used?

I’m not eternally bound to canvas, but it has been useful. It feels good, is fun to work with, looks nice with denim and leather, and can be purchased in small amounts. Adding wax to items has helped keep canvas around too, as it does a great job soaking up and holding onto the stuff.

I did just place an order for some selvage denim and twill, so I’m branching out slowly!Wax_And_Cloth-16Wax_And_Cloth-20Wax_And_Cloth-19

Anything in the pipeline that you have planned but have not started making yet?

Always! The next items up on the list are large and small crossbody bags, and I’ve already made a demo version of the large one. There are loads of items I’ve jotted down, sketched, and otherwise decided to make at some point- some soon, and others far down the road. To name just a few, I want to make a new zip backpack, a camera bag of some kind, more leather pieces like wallets, a camera strap, and phone sleeves, and even items for dogs. Eventually I’d love to create some wooden items, lamps, and perhaps some jewelery.

What is your end game goal for Wax and Cloth?

I don’t know what the true ‘end game’ goal is, but I do have some shorter term goals. To roll up a few into a meta-goal, I’d say that I want to reach a point where wax+cloth, and other creative endeavors, are my primary income. That would allow me to move where I’d like, accomplish loads more than I can now, and take an important step towards actual end game ideas. Everything I do now is done during lunch, late at night, and on the weekend. The upside is that I don’t worry about some parts of the business thanks to making enough in the office, but that’s about the only upside.

Handling everything as an extracurricular can be awfully rough. I’m also bad about making extensive and all-inclusive to-do lists, which can make everything seem endlessly challenging. There’s always more to do than I have time to do it in though, so finding the time to catch up, then get ahead would be awesome.

Do you have any advice for someone who is looking into turning their hobby into a business?

I think that myself, and a few others I’d consider similar, began making things because it was something we enjoyed. There was a point that everything aligned, and my hobby became self-sustaining, and has grown since. I wouldn’t keep working on everything if I didn’t enjoy learning and making things, but thankfully, I still do.

That said, I think that if you don’t have fun with what you want to sell, it will show. I’ve seen more than a few small goods businesses that honestly just come off as stale, stagnant, and bland. These always seem to me to be projects that were started to make money, and not as a creative outlet.Wax_And_Cloth-11

If you’re already making things for fun, the best advice I can give for moving towards selling things is nothing particularly magical. Make sure your prices are fair, research shipping and supply before you start, be sure you like making what you want to sell, and work really, really hard.Wax_And_Cloth-12

Fun Question Number 2: What is your opinion on Thom Browne and the Thom Browne aesthetic?

I’m not really that well versed on Mr. Browne himself, but I do like the aesthetic. Given the price however, if I was in the market I’d be more inclined to make myself knock-off Thom or buy from other brands instead.Wax_And_Cloth-18

Make time to stop by Wax+Cloth to check out all of Paul’s offerings and additional photos. Here are some links to his social media as well:

Instagram | TwitterFacebook | Pinterest

Disclosure: I will be sending all of this stuff back to Paul.

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