Comfort sells, especially in children’s wear. Children’s retailers report that parents’ main concern when deciding on denim styles for their kids is comfort.
But what does that mean for denim?
Once a back-to-school staple, denim brands are working to stay relevant in a category that favors comfortable, affordable, washable and durable designs like leggings, sport shorts and track pants.
Takanori Hayashi, director of brand and marketing for Bitz Kids, a Manhattan-based children’s boutique, said parents stayed away from denim items for multiple seasons because of worries of children’s discomfort.
That changed after the introduction of knit denim. The boutique now offers a robust line up of knit denim pants in skinny, standard, wide and tapered cuts.
“Knit denim is becoming a thing this year and competing with the athleisure market, in my opinion,” said Carol Faber Adams, owner of Torly Kid, a Manhattan-based children’s boutique of trend-focused apparel and gifts. “While athleisure has become popular, I believe there will always be room for denim in the market as long as it’s comfortable. Designers are getting creative with fabrics to maximize comfort.”
Most parents tend to prioritize their children’s comfort over remaining within a certain price point.
“We find that our customers care the most about the quality and uniqueness of each design and love the extra special details we add in that elevates our chambray,” said Christina Field, senior designer of children’s wear label Pink Chicken New York. “There’s not necessarily one level of price.”
Activewear represents 24 percent of the apparel industry’s total sales, and is expected to continue growing into next year, according to research by NPD. The analytics firm credits athleisure’s success to the fact that the trend has been embraced by a wide variety of ages and demographics.
“I’m often asked if the athleisure trend is going to fade away, and the answer is no,” said Marshal Cohen, NPD’s chief industry advisor of retail. “When you have comfort and function combined with fashion it’s difficult to go back to anything else on a regular basis.”
It is clear when it comes to children’s wear, the appeal of athleisure is the same as the priorities with denim: comfort and versatility. “Parents look for easy styles that are soft and comfortable and can go with everything,” Field said.
Field pointed out that with children’s clothing, the styles need to be easy to run around in, which is likely the reason why parents have flocked to athleisure for their kids. “Our bohemian silhouettes, flared pants and shorts fit perfectly into this trend because they are versatile and can be dressed up or down,” she explained.
The brand also embraced lighter fabrications. “We have moved away from stiff denims and have focused more on lightweight chambray and Tencel qualities that have a soft hand-feel and nice drape. The child can wear the same chambray styles to school, camp or parties because they are comfortable, yet still fashionable with our pops of colorful embroidery and other unique details.”
Still, with children’s brands looking to adult trends for inspiration, the skinny jean style remains prominent this reason.
The compromise between the skinny jean and the priority of comfort has resulted in stretch skinny jeans, which Hayashi reports is a continued favorite in the boys’ assortment at Bitz Kids.