By  on May 14, 2007

Peeking is allowed at the newest children's wear hot spot in Santa Monica, Calif.: Peek…Aren't You Curious, based in San Francisco, has opened its first retail location on Montana Avenue.

The 1,600-square-foot space stocks a mix of apparel, footwear, accessories and toys from the children's apparel company's six proprietary lines and from high-end outside vendors Altru Apparel, Rare, Imps and Elfs and Albert, a baby line coowned by women's wear designer Ulla Johnson. The company also has forged a design partnership with premium denim label AG Adriano Goldschmied to launch a children's denim line this fall.

The retail concept aims to please both children and their parents. Apparel dangles from monkey bars and is stacked on oversize picnic tables, colorful children's artwork adorns the walls and a 6-foot-tall topiary in the shape of a giraffe stands next to pint-size mannequins. Artsy black-and-white photographs of children at play combat the "Romper Room" vibe and keep things cheerful.

"At the end of the day, it's hard to find an environment that is a comfortable place to go that your kids like, too," said co-founder and president Amy Hennisch, who worked for 14 years as senior vice president for design and merchandising at Gap before becoming executive vice president of Lucky Brand Jeans in 2003.

Hennisch left Lucky to launch Peek with two partners who also had careers at mass fashion companies. Tina Canales, head of design and merchandising for the company, is a former vice president of women's merchandising at Gap, and chief operating officer Scott Williams (also Hennisch's fiancé) previously was regional manager for Coach and Lucky Brand.

The three launched the line in spring 2006 as a response to their hectic lives, which left them little family time.

"We all built new concepts for other companies and were traveling 50 percent of the time," said Hennisch. "Now we can have a lifestyle more oriented to our own goals and spend as much time as possible with our families."

The six in-house brands resemble colorful adult sportswear shrunk down. There is the Sixties-inspired Sgt. Fletcher; the beachy, casual Surf Royalty; the preppy-Western Williams & Sons; Fleur des Champs, featuring eclectic printed pieces for girls; denim line Craft Dungarees, and Little Peanut, a printed cotton-knit baby line. Retail prices range from $28 for T-shirts to $88 for screened and embroidered sweatshirts.The lines will be available for wholesale in the fall and the company is targeting high-end specialty and department stores, including Barneys New York, Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale's.

"While there are a lot of mass kids' players, modern-day parents are willing to spend money for an experience that's a lot more stylish and edited," said Hennisch. "Because so much of the product is our own, customers are buying four to five items at a time. They're wardrobing, which is unique."

The company plans to open two more stores by the end of the year, in Corte Madera, Calif., and in Scottsdale, Ariz., and four to six more stores on the West Coast next year. Freestanding retail locations on the East Coast are planned for 2009.

Hennisch projects $4 million to $5 million in retail sales from the three forthcoming stores by the end of the year.

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