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Children’s Club Recap: Where Comfort and Faux Denim Rules

The adult denim market is chasing what children’s denim designers have known for years: comfort is key.

As yoga pants and leggings outpace denim sales in the adult apparel market——the NPD Group reported jean sales in the U.S. fell 6 percent to $16 billion in the year ended June 2014, while sales for yoga pants and other activewear during the same period climbed 7 percent to $33.6 billion——and more denim manufacturers incorporate athleisure components to their collections, children’s denim designers have felt the pressure to add comfort and stretch to their collections for years. Everyone from global kids’ brands like Levi’s to boutique labels like Appaman have been innovating to meet the demand for comfort that kids crave.

At Children’s Club in New York City (Jan. 11-13) it was clear that comfort remains top of mind for children’s designers, and that buyers want more of it.

For Vierra Rose, a New York-based company founded and designed by Alice Lo and Yessenia Tseng, the answer is French Terry denim. The designers said, “It feels like a cotton knit and then it has a denim look from the outside.” And like a jersey, the material is stretchable and comfortable, the designers noted.

Mock denim has become a go-to fabrication for Junee Jr., a brand that specializes in skirts for girls. For Fall ’15, the company is having success with its faux denim skirt, which moves and flares with ease. Instead of traditional denim skirts with button closures, the Junee Jr.’s skirts feature side and back zips for added comfort.

Similarly, Lo and Tseng aim to expand their dressy comfort options for fall by adding fashion details, like zipper embellishments and color blocking to sweatshirts and sweatpants. The Vierra Rose designers said, “We try to dress it up a little bit so it’s not in-home wear, it’s something you can wear to school, but not too casual. They look cool, but comfortable at the same time.”

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Leisure clothes in denim colors are selling especially well, due to their unisex appeal. However, sellers have noticed that boys especially are moving away from denim.

Aaron Kassin, a partner at Specialty Apparel Group, owner of Havoc Denim, said he has noticed boys’ activewear edging out denim. Kassin said boys tend to wear activewear or a school pant instead of jeans. As a result, Havoc has added colored 5-pocket pant for boys.

Hoonana, a Los Angeles-based brand for boys 12 months to six years, has preserved its denim assortment by adding stretchy cotton waistbands into jeans. General manager Alex Kim said the simple, toned-down washes were especially popular for fall and noted that the more stylish pairs with the distressing were not doing so well. Kim suspects it is because parents are concerned that their children might rip the jean more while they play.

When it comes to premium denim, style beats function. Reps from both DL1961 and Blank NYC said distressed styles have been performing well, thanks in part to the ongoing grunge trend in the brands’ women’s collections. At DL1961, boyfriend jeans, cutoff shorts, and white jeans are also trending for girls.

Still, DL1961 cannot escape the call for comfort and is achieving it with a 4-way stretch ACTIVEX Lycra line, which hit the market in August. Designed for kids on the go, the cross-weave technology of the fibers makes the jeans extremely durable, preventing tearing or ripping while kids are in motion. The jeans’ fit, feel, finish and appearance can withstand up to fifty-plus washes.