These are good times if you're in the children's apparel business, a sector that's getting a lift from small, family-run companies with fresh ideas about how to dress junior.
Children's apparel sales are expected to increase 10.4 percent to $44 billion this year, far outpacing the 6 percent growth in 2006, said Marshal Cohen, chief apparel industry analyst with The NPD Group.
Children's apparel sales are so strong that they are expected to grow almost twice as fast as the 5.4 percent increase expected in adult apparel sales this year, according to NPD. Typically, the gap between adult and children's apparel sales is much smaller.
This fact is even more surprising when the limitations of the market are considered. The children's apparel market in the U.S. represents just a sliver of the overall $180 billion in annual apparel sales. At any given time there are only 1,000 kids' fashion vendors supplying retailers. Additionally, the universe of specialty, mass and department store chains selling kid fashions is tiny — just 47.
Another part of the equation: The children's apparel business is typically cyclical, trading places every few years with adult apparel as top dog in the industry. Cohen forecasts the current upswing in kids' apparel to last for about another year. Next fall "the adult market should shift to 7 percent growth and kids should drop down to 3.5 to 4 percent," Cohen said, adding that the slowdown is inevitable since "no one's doing enough in the industry to sustain the momentum," Cohen said.
However, such forecasts don't seem to quash enthusiasm among the small independent kids' apparel vendors who are fueling the current boom.These vendors are succeeding by tapping into demand from young parents and Baby Boomer grandparents for hip and playful kids clothing you can't get everywhere, Cohen said.
A good example of the trend is Knuckleheads Inc., started two years ago in Vancouver, Wash., by new parents Trent and Melissa Nash. They now have 500 boutique customers in the U.S. and abroad, selling $40 outfits of retro-design T-shirts, shirts and pants inspired by skateboarders, motorcycles, pirates and bowling. This fall the couple is launching an infants' line.
"Parents love to spend money on their kids," said Melissa Nash, in an e-mail. "I totally get it."Similar inspiration steered textile designer Faez Fathi and his wife, Jen Bright-Fathi, to launch Bunny and Bee last year in San Francisco. The company sells cotton
T-shirts and sweatshirts with whimsical but edgy graphic designs of flowers, animals and fruit, for around $30 retail. Producing the designs locally, and with their two toddlers as models for promotional photos, the couple is building business through its retail Web site (bunnyandbee.com) and 20 boutique accounts in the Bay Area, Chicago and Canada.
"Dads love our stuff. He might be a guy who works in a band or a skateboarder with tattoos. But I also have dads from [posh] Pacific Heights in San Francisco," Bright-Fathi said. "They don't want to see their girls in frilly pink all the time."
Cohen views this trend in sociological terms.
"Kids' fashion has become the great vehicle to communicate your well-being," Cohen said. "It's not about practicality, it's about imagery. In many cases they are dressing their kids to convey the image of being above it all."
Natasha Levin, whose Orlando, Fla.-based Micro Me kids' clothing line sells in 100 boutiques, sees demand for infants and toddlers wearing all black, skull-print skirts or tattoo-style graphic T-shirts as part of fashion's evolution.
"People who are interested in rock 'n' roll, are surfers and skaters, are all having children. To me it makes sense we would need something a little different than we had when we were children," Levin said.
@fearofgod and @maxfieldla have teamed up on a pop-up installation. The store, located in the gallery space across from Maxfield’s Melrose Ave location, is the site of the brand’s House of God pop-up in which Fear of God founder @jerrylorenzo has created a church-inspired installation. A dozen vintage church pews sit in front of an LED screen playing 90s gospel singers in an effort to re-create an environment akin to a Southern Baptist Church, Lorenzo explained. Read more about the pop-up on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: Jennifer Johnson)
Known for his sleek, sophisticated American glamour, Norman Norell is the subject of an upcoming exhibition at @fitnyc. “Norell: Dean of American Fashion,” which runs from February 9 through April 14, will feature approximately 100 ensembles and accessories. His best work is exemplified by the designer’s glittering “mermaid” gowns frosted with thousands of hand-sewn sequins – like the one pictured. (📷: William Helburn) #wwdfashion
For pre-fall 2018, @balmain didn’t let go of the glitz. A crystal embroidered baseball jacket priced at around $40,000 hangs in the “couture” section of the brand’s first men’s pre-collection. Sporting the words “Balmain Army” across the back, the item took around two months to make. “When it was completed, it was like Christmas, it was like, ‘It’s done, it’s exactly what I wanted,’” said Balmain’s creative director @olivier_rousteing during a tour of the collection in a Paris showroom on Monday. #wwdfashion
Eighty degree temperatures and outdoor installations at the annual Art Basel Miami Beach called for bright, elevated beachwear. See more street style pictures on WWD.com. #theyarewearing #ABMB (📷: @lifeinreverie)
Following September’s emotional tribute to her brother Gianni, Donatella Versace wanted to bring the spring show’s deep sense of intimacy to her @versace_official pre-fall collection. Donatella found inspiration in Versace Palazzo in Milan and from Gianni’s opulent apartment. Archival patterns and new motifs were splashed on silk shirtdresses and fitted jersey frocks. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com. #wwdfashion
Demna Gvasalia continues to shake up the Paris fashion calendar — and experiment with new runway timetables for his @vetements_official brand. WWD has learned that Vetements plans to stage its next coed show for the fall 2018 season on January 19 during Men’s Fashion Week in the French capital. Details about the timing and venue have not been confirmed — stay tuned on WWD.com to catch the latest. #wwdnews (📷: @giovanni_giannoni_photo)
@zacposen's go-to holiday gift? Cookies! "I'll usually bake cookies and send them as a gift," said the designer, who recently released his cookbook "Cooking With Zac: Recipes from Rustic to Refined." Get the recipe for his Brown Butter-Chocolate Chip Cookies via link in bio 🍪🍪🍪 #wwdeye #cookingwithzac
For @monsemaison’s pre-fall 2018 collection, Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim honed in on the brand’s many signatures — men’s wear, which was tweaked and feminized through deconstruction, proportion play and lots of bare shoulders. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: George Chinese)
On Friday night, @yohjiyamamotoofficial received the Design for Asia Lifetime Achievement Award in Hong Kong. The 75-year-old designer has been celebrated for many years and is best known for his dark and avant-garde tailoring. “In my long career, in design, architecture, [I’ve been to] so many parties, this is the very first time that I have such a warm feeling, I really appreciate this,” Yamamoto said. #wwdfashion (📷: @dominiquemaitre)