By  on October 15, 2007

Parents dressing children in their favorite designers has created a generation of uber fashion-savvy tykes who can tell a cashmere blend from 100 percent cashmere and spot the difference between real and fake fur a mile away. With women having children later in life and more dual-income families, the resulting higher earning power means designer labels are being lavished on the lucky offspring.

Polo Ralph Lauren anticipated this trend back in 1976, when its children's wear collection was introduced. According to the Polo Ralph Lauren annual report, children's wear, which did $526 million in worldwide wholesale sales in 2007, is the third-largest contributor to the company's wholesale sales volume. Children's wear is the fastest-growing merchandise category on RalphLauren.com, the annual report said.

Over the years, the line has been expanded to encompass everything from apparel and accessories for newborns to teens. The children's wear reflects the spirit of Ralph Lauren's classically styled adult fare, with the full range of iconic pieces, including polos, oxford shirts, blazers and cashmere. Prices range from $19.75 for a Declan short-sleeve T-shirt to $250 for a Chesterfield princess coat.

"Ralph Lauren Childrenswear products are often reinterpretations of pieces from our men's and women's lines," the company said.

Of the company's 58 stores in the U.S., about 25 percent carry children's wear. The company operates 14 children's wear stores; Eight are in shopping centers and six are in downtown street locations. There are plans to open one Ralph Lauren Childrenswear store in 2008.

With one stand-alone Ralph Lauren Childrenswear store on Bond Street in London and another opening on Fulham Road there in November, there's room for expansion in Europe. There are three children's wear stores in Hong Kong and one store in Dubai. A unit is scheduled to open in Malaysia in November.

"We are always looking to grow the brand and expand our presence here and internationally," the company said. "We are open to exploring new opportunities if the location, demographic and concept is Ralph Lauren-appropriate."

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