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Junior Takes on Adult Trends Dominate New York Kid's Fashion Event

A drive to mini-me their kids has seen many parents keen to purchase cut-down, grown-up fashion styles for their brood, with some exhibitors at the Children's Club expo offering matching outfits for mums and daughters.

Photo: Children’s fashion: Meeting the challenge of being stylish and robust, while retaining a little innocence.
Children's fashion: Meeting the challenge of being stylish and robust, while retaining a little innocence.
Photo: Children’s fashion: Meeting the challenge of being stylish and robust, while retaining a little innocence.
Children's fashion: Meeting the challenge of being stylish and robust, while retaining a little innocence.

It was pretty much a consensus among the exhibitors at this year's Children's Club, a New York-based showcase of kids' clothes of pretty much every description, that American parents have a real penchant for dressing their offspring in bright, vibrant colours. It was also widely noted that junior takes on several distinctly grown-up fashion trends were clearly de rigueur, with floral and geometric prints, as well as 'cold shoulder' tops, all widely in evidence.

Acknowledging the preference for vibrantly-coloured kids' outfits, Catalina Gonzalez, the Founder of Dondolo, a Texas-based specialist children and babies clothing line, said: "Right now, brighter colours in all fabrics are doing well. For the coming season, the oranges and the aquas are looking particularly good, with everyone incorporating them.

Gonzalez's sentiments were shared by Karine Senequier, a Sales Representative for France's Oh La! La! range of children's clothes. Giving her own insights into local preferences, she said: "America is solely focused on vibrant colours. People here like bright things and they want to have bright children, so this is what they are going for. They're also very focused on print, although some of the prints that do well in Europe are a little too sweet for them."

Similarly noting this passion for prints, Paige Sutphin, Proprietor of Halsey Kate Childrenswear, a Massachusetts designer of European-inspired clothing for girls of up to 12 years old, said: "Florals and palm prints are clearly going to be big for Spring 2018. For our part, we have incorporated cactus and palm motifs, believing that that kind of lush look is going to be very much in demand."

While prints may have predominated at the event, classic stripes clearly remain a staple of the children's sector. Championing this particular look, Gina Mazzarisi, an Account Manager for Toobydoo, a New Jersey-based specialist in distinctly modern children's and baby wear, said: "Customers really go for the classic stripe. They love anything with a stripe and, if it's vibrantly coloured, it really catches the eye."

With many exhibitors opting for a mini-me take on adult styles, one Los Angeles-based brand took things to the logical next stage – offering entirely matching outfits for mum and the kids. The brand in question was Hayden, a wholesale clothing brand aiming to super-serve "nomadic, bohemian women".

Explaining the company's singular approach, Sales Representative Diane Kim said: "Our Mommy and Me programme offers the same styles for kids and adults. It looks great in family photos when you want everyone matching.

"We also try to be very contemporary and keep ahead of all the market trends. For us, cold shoulder tops have been doing well, as have fashion-forward moto jackets and bomber jackets.

"For spring and summer, we are seeing a lot of vertical stripes. It's a very classic thing and it's also one of the coming adult trends."

Despite this blurring of the boundaries between adult and child styles, there is still a sizable contingent of American parents who just want to let their children be children, a stark contrast with the more fashion forward-approach gripping Europe. A keen observer of these varying preferences, Aurelia de Sailly, a Sales Representative for Antoinette Paris, a California-based clothing retailer, said: "In Britain and the US, there is a real desire to protect the innocence of little girls.

Photo: Stand-out stripes from New Jersey’s Toobydoo.
Stand-out stripes from New Jersey's Toobydoo.
Photo: Stand-out stripes from New Jersey’s Toobydoo.
Stand-out stripes from New Jersey's Toobydoo.
Photo: Livie and Luca footwear: Eminently eBay-able.
Livie and Luca footwear: Eminently eBay-able.
Photo: Livie and Luca footwear: Eminently eBay-able.
Livie and Luca footwear: Eminently eBay-able.

"By comparison, in France little girls tend to dress more like adults, becoming little fashion icons. Traditional, timeless dresses, however, tend to do better abroad than they do in France, where many of them are dreamed up."

After appearance, performance is often the other key criteria when it comes to purchasing childrenswear. In light of this, it was hardly surprising that many exhibitors opted to highlight the toughness and freedom of movement offered by their latest ranges.

Staking her claim in this particular sector, Mazzarisi said: "Toobydoo is all about the active child. In essence, it's about children being able to have fun no matter what they are wearing.

"Overall, active swimwear is one of our top selling items. A lot of parents love the way the lining goes all the way down to the bottom of our boys' trunks range, ensuring they don't ride up."

"The fabric we use is also really soft and completely washable. All of our range is cotton, so the feel is something children really love."

Soft-feeling fabrics were also a priority for Hide and Seek, a New York-based baby-clothing specialist. Emphasising its importance, Sales Manager Joe Namer said: "We have been focusing on a number of new fabrications and US-made pima cotton seems to be selling particularly well. People really want that delicate touch when it comes to their baby."

If anything, comfort – together with robust construction – is even more important in the children's footwear market. Clearly testifying to this, Rose Ann Valencia, East Coast Territory Manager for Livie and Luca, a California-based children's shoe brand, said: "Our philosophy is that kids' shoes have to be very soft and comfortable, while featuring a lot of wiggle room as a way of protecting young feet and allowing them to grow and develop."

Positioned as a premium product, Valencia says many consumers are happy to pay US$60 or more for Livie and Luca shoes, even while knowing that their children may well soon grow out of them. She does, however, have a particular theory as to why certain parents are willing to spend a little over the odds on a superior product, saying: "Our shoes have a very good resale value. On eBay people seek them out because they are so durable – no kid is ever going to wear them out."

Apart from comfort and durability, environmental responsibility was seen as another factor that many parents take into consideration when purchasing childrenswear. Again, this was seen as following a trend that has long been evident in the adult market. Perhaps fortuitously, one of this year's show debutants, Georgia-based Kanopy, was majoring on sustainability as its USP.

Expanding on the company's particular philosophy, Chief Executive Chris Rork said: "We are a sustainable baby brand, set up because we believe there is an awful lot of waste in the industry. We firmly believe that millennial moms and generation-Z moms are very in tune with the environment and want to support brands that share their concerns."

While the sustainability message is clearly gaining traction, Rork believes it's a concept that goes down far better in certain parts of the US than in others, saying: "The coastal regions are generally more supportive of sustainable initiatives, with San Francisco and Seattle probably taking the lead here.

"Bearing in mind that just 10 years ago nobody really talked about sustainability or climate change, it is surprising how such concepts have permeated regions where you might think they would have never have taken hold. Texas, for one, has become very receptive to the more organic and sustainable approach.

"At the moment, we are solely focusing on North America, but we are keen to get into China. Mainland consumers, though, are really only drawn to well-established brands and we are not quite at that level yet."

Photo: More kitten than catwalk: Mini models à la mode.
More kitten than catwalk: Mini models à la mode.
Photo: More kitten than catwalk: Mini models à la mode.
More kitten than catwalk: Mini models à la mode.

Children's Club 2017 took place from 6-8 August at New York City's Jacob K Javits Convention Center.

James O'Donnell, Special Correspondent, New York

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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