Millennial parents will spare no expense to make sure their children are well dressed. Retail trend-tracking firm Edited reported Thursday that the luxury category accounts for 11 percent of the children’s wear market, up from 4 percent in 2016.
Millennials are proving to be a boon for kids’ apparel brands. “This group of consumers, who are approaching parenthood later, are style conscious, having had more time, money and digital encouragement in creating an identity of ‘self.’ They want children’s wear that not only fits with their own personal aesthetic but their values, too,” Edited said.
In general, the children’s wear market is on the upswing. Edited found the category was up 14 percent in Q1 this year compared with two years ago. Compared with adult apparel, which decreased 6 percent, Edited said kids’ fashion is shaping up to be one of the most important categories to watch for Spring 2018.
Lap of luxury
The children’s luxury category is taking share from both the mass and premium markets. As a result, average prices are climbing because new luxury players are entering the kids’ market. “The mass and luxury markets have both got more expensive over the last two years, but at the same pace. Average prices on both markets have grown at 13 percent,” Edited said.
The average price of children’s jeans has increased by $10 each year since 2016, with an average price of $60.51 in Q1 2018. The average price of a denim jacket during the same quarter was $113.79, compared with $85.65 in Q1 2016.
Ralph Lauren, Burberry, Dolce & Gabbana, Monnalisa and Stella McCartney are among the five most-stocked luxury brands in children’s wear, according to Edited, and new players are entering the space each season. Albertta Ferretti is launching kids for Spring/Summer 2019, and Stella McCartney, a favorite of eco-minded moms, announced a licensed range with the U.K. comic Beano.
Children’s wear long has been described as a recession-proof category. While the fashion industry tends to scale back to focus on versatile, heritage or seasonless styles (a.k.a. proven bestsellers) at times of economic crisis or political instability, children’s wear steps up its game.
Take it from children’s online luxury fashion retailer AlexandAlexa, which launched in 2007 just as the U.S. plunged into the Great Recession. As traditional children’s boutiques across the country shut down, AlexandAlexa charged ahead with its swoon-worthy list of designer labels, including Chloe, Dior and Fendi. Today, the e-commerce store stocks more than 200 designer labels, including a $1,300 satin bomber by Gucci.
Social media or social status?
That focus on fashionable children’s clothing hasn’t left the building. In fact, it has been heightened by the prevalence of celebrity offspring—be it Blue Ivy Carter at the MTV Video Music Awards dressed in a sequin-and-tulle Mischka Aoki frock, or North West hanging in Calabasas in an Adidas jersey one day and in a chic black fur coat in New York City the next. West’s mother, Kim Kardashian, frequently shares designer gifts for her children on social media and even has gone so far as to “archive” North’s most iconic pieces, like a white Balmain blazer she famously paired with a white tutu.
Attention on celebrity children’s style isn’t likely to simmer down anytime soon. The Kardashian and Jenner family alone has birthed three rising influencers—Chicago, Stormi and True—in just this year. Thanks to social media, the public knows that Stormi, the daughter of Kylie Jenner and Travis Scott, rides in a Fendi-logoed stroller and recently received a pair of custom sneakers from Giuseppe Zanotti.
And a third British royal baby, Prince Louis, will bring a new spotlight to luxury kids’ garb, albeit with more traditional styling. Royal watchers with an astute eye for fashion recently called out Princess Charlotte for wearing a hand-me-down cardigan that her older brother Prince George wore two years ago. Recycled, non-binary fashion—who knew Princess Charlotte was at the forefront of fashion?
To some extent, a new generation of influencers is doing what the Kardashian clan has done for high-end designers like Balmain’s Olivier Rousteing and Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci by making designer children’s wear brands covetable household names.
With 547,000 Instagram followers, 6-year-old @coco_pinkprincess from Tokyo captivates with Balenciaga trousers, Supreme caps, Fendi sandals and her signature irreverent pout. Brother-and-sister duo @Kingandkaui encapsulate SoCal cool with Balenciaga hoodies and vintage Levi’s jean jackets, while @Princeandthebaker shows how it’s done in New York City with the help of his stylist mom. Prince’s go-to look? A Gucci hat, Moschino top and ’90s-style Guess jeans.
That’s not to say that children’s apparel is willing to give up function and comfort in the name of fashion. Edited reported that children’s designers tend to refresh successful pieces in their collections by introducing new prints and patterns.
This season, Edited found that 54 percent of children’s apparel is patterned, compared with just 36 percent for the adults. While the prevalence of particular prints is consistent across genders—conversational prints saw the most growth in both boys’ and girls’ fashion—Edited noted that preferences change with age.
Graphics represent 38 percent of printed baby clothing, but 45 percent of teen fashion. Meanwhile, timeless stripes account for 16 percent of prints in baby clothing and 12 percent for teens.
One thing all genders and ages can agree upon is color. The days when blue ruled for boys and pink for girls have passed. Edited reported that new arrivals of “Gen Z” yellow garments increased 45 percent this season compared with Spring/Summer 2017, followed by green, which is up 18 percent. “Greens and yellows are genderless, something that many retailers are seeing millennial parents value,” Edited said.
In the genes
In many ways, color trends are as important to the children’s apparel market as they are to the adults’, Edited said. However, women’s and men’s collection remain the go-to source of inspiration for tots. So much so that luxury brands like Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci and Sophia Webster tout “mommy and me” fashion in their consumer marketing.
The trend has gone mainstream as well. For Mother’s Day, Madewell partnered with sister brand Crewcuts for a collection of strawberry-themed jeans, denim jackets, tops and dresses for women, along with kids sizes 2 to 16.
Mini-me fashion is not new to children’s premium denim. The category historically has been based on what’s selling for women and men, but 5-Star Apparel EVP and creative director Ann Marie Savino said children’s denim doesn’t have to play second fiddle to its older counterparts.
Savino has built her 20-year career on developing children’s denim product lines that not only stand up to the wear and tear kids put on their jeans, but are also on-trend, age-appropriate and appeal to both kids and parents. It’s a recipe that Savino and 5-Star Apparel have perfected through designing and manufacturing children’s denim for Vigoss Jeans, Hudson, True Religion, Joe’s and AG.
Pearl embellishments, jean jackets with sherpa collars and hem treatments are among the must-have kids’ denim trends for fall. Savino said to expect Mom jeans with a high rise to take some market share from skinny jeans. “Kids don’t get the ‘mom jean’ per se, but they understand this modification,” she added.
It’s a cut that is already dominating teen denim fashion, a category that Edited said is entering a growth spurt. New arrivals of teen apparel are up 29 percent during the first quarter of 2018. However, in order to maintain that growth, Edited urged retailers to get to understand who their teen customers are and what drives them.
“Retailers need to suss out who is buying their teen apparel because this group of shoppers will need sophisticated marketing—they act with lightening speed when it comes to trends and their social references move with viral pace,” Edited said. “Today’s brands and retailers are speaking very directly to this customer they haven’t had much prior contact with.”