LOS ANGELES — The tween market is morphing almost as fast as its customers.
First there were Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. Then Hilary Duff. Now, Miley Cyrus is growing her fashion empire. Who among the newest stable of starlets — including Keke Palmer and Selena Gomez — is poised to reign as the next tween queen?
The opportunities are ripe, although the category hasn’t been immune to the recession. There are about 20 million girls between the ages of five and 14, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Girls between the ages of seven and 12 accounted for $7.45 billion in clothing sales in the 12 months through August. The same age group spent $7.85 billion a year ago, according to research firm The NPD Group.
“All the shows like ‘Gossip Girl’ and ‘True Jackson’ and ‘90210’ have a style to them; all these shows have fashion,” said Palmer, the 16-year-old star of Nickelodeon’s “True Jackson, VP.” “We all like watching this stuff.”
The pioneers in the category are moving on.
Duff, 22, has been phasing out her four-year-old tween brand, Stuff by Hilary Duff, to focus on shoppers more of her age with Femme for DKNY Jeans, her collaboration with DKNY Jeans that launched in the fall. The 23-year-old Olsens parlayed their status as fashion insiders into their contemporary brand Elizabeth and James and high-end line The Row before signing a deal for a junior line, Olsenboye, sold at J.C. Penney stores.
Now, Cyrus, the 16-year-old star of the Disney Channel’s “Hannah Montana,” has teamed with MaxAzria to create a junior line exclusively for Wal-Mart Stores Inc., and the Jonas Brothers hope to appeal to their female fans with a tween clothing line.
Dress Barn Inc. made a $157 million stock deal in June to acquire Tween Brands Inc. and its 908 Justice stores catering to seven- to 14-year-old girls. During the same month, Aéropostale Inc. opened the first store for its new tween concept, P.S. From Aéropostale, aimed at seven- to 12-year-olds.
Wal-Mart filled a void left by the departure of the Olsens’ tween clothing label, mary-kateandashley, with Mad Style by True Jackson, a new fashion line inspired by “True Jackson, VP.” And Gomez, 17, the star of the Disney Channel’s “Wizards of Waverly Place,” is readying for the fall 2010 debut of her junior fashion brand, Dream Out Loud by Selena Gomez.
In addition, companies with names like Est. Today and Fashionology LA are sprouting on cyberspace and in brick-and-mortar form to allow style-centric tweens to customize everything from T-shirts to zebra-print leggings. And a 13-year-old Chicago fashion blogger named Tavi Gevinson has become the latest “It” girl, landing on the cover of Pop magazine and attending fashion shows of designers such as Alexander Wang, Rodarte and Marc Jacobs.
Robert Thorne, the marketer who groomed the Olsen twins and Duff to become tween fashion players, is changing the rules of celebrity branding with a line called Primp, which will launch a tween line dubbed Primp Girl at Macy’s Inc., The Bon-Ton Stores Inc. and Dillard’s Inc. this holiday. Primp Girl also will unveil a limited edition collection at Kitson in early January. As with the Olsens and Duff, Thorne acts as brand manager and licensing agent for Primp Girl and brokered the deals.
But, in a departure from his previous ventures, Thorne is jettisoning the single celebrity who served as the face and identity for a slew of licensing deals. Instead, he’s focusing on one fashion brand that will tap into the fast-changing landscape of young stars. Plus, he’ll use tweens’ preferred media — the Internet, iPhone, iPod and fan magazines such as Popstar and Twist — to disseminate photos and videos of celebrities wearing Primp Girl.
Primp already filmed actress Chelsea Staub, 21, from the Disney Channel’s “Jonas,” gabbing about back-to-school fashion with designer Wells Butler at the company’s warehouse. It posted six episodes for free on iTunes detailing how Primp makes its clothes and then sells them at trade shows such as Coterie. It’s also developing a free iPhone application that shows Primp’s look books, list of retailers and Butler’s Twitter updates.
Next month, Primp Girl will launch a yearlong campaign highlighting clothes designed by a dozen celebrities, including actress Madison Pettis, 11; Radio Disney singer and YouTube sensation Savannah Outen, 17, and actress Jennette McCurdy, also 17, from “iCarly.” Proceeds from the collaborations will be donated to a charity chosen by each celebrity.
“It’s tough when you’re always racing against the clock with a tween celebrity who’s outgrowing the customer,” Thorne said. “We put a lot of work in these [licensing programs], and five to six years isn’t enough to build a strong branded business.”
With Primp Girl’s rotating circle of celebrities, Thorne said: “You’ll always have a new tween celebrity. It continues to breathe fresh air into the brand. That’s how we intend to keep a decade or two [of business] with the tween. ”
Thorne emphasized the celebrities aren’t being paid to wear Primp Girl or collaborate with the brand. Rather, the company is sending free clothes to the young stars in exchange for the publicity surrounding them when they wear Primp Girl.
For instance, Primp Girl recently sent a purple hoodie emblazoned with silver stars to Noah Cyrus, Miley’s nine-year-old sister. Cyrus, along with her cousin, Emily Reaves, then raved about the company in a YouTube video that was viewed more than 31,800 times and mentioned on Web sites such as Ocean Up, Celebuzz and The Insider. Primp said it aims to corral celebrities who are between the ages of 10 and 18 to help plug Primp Girl.
“I don’t care what they do as long as they’re widely known and looked up to,” Thorne 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)