Babes in Denimland

Some of today's best known-denim brands are going gaga for babies and kids.

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Some of today’s best known-denim brands are going gaga for babies and kids.

This story first appeared in the May 24, 2007 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Names like Diesel, Guess, Earnest Sewn, Chip & Pepper and True Religion have launched their own baby and children’s denim lines, and this fall, Seven For All Mankind will follow suit with a full children’s sportswear collection for girls and boys, with denim items retailing from $75 to $224.

“Our target customer is maturing and having kids,” said Jennifer Highman, vice president of sales for Seven. “The demand for children’s really started with our retailers, but we found that our clients were actually asking when we’d begin creating a collection for kids, too.”

Scott Morrison, president and designer of New York-based brand Earnest Sewn — whose popular Lit’l Earnie Hutch jeans retail for $136 — said the people buying the brand’s kids’ clothes are typically already loyal adult customers.

“We get parents buying the exact style and wash of our kids’ wear that they buy for themselves from the adult line,” he said.

Not surprisingly, moms are spearheading the trend. According to Cotton Inc.’s Lifestyle Monitor, women with children under the age of 18 own an average of eight pairs of jeans themselves. This high level of knowledge and intimacy with one product is impacting how moms shop for their kids.

“Today’s stylish moms are definitely seeking that same fashionable edge and attention to detail in their children’s wardrobes that they demand in their own, as evidenced by the growing number of premium denim brands entering the market,” said the report.

For already-successful premium denim brands, entering the children’s market is the ideal brand extension, the next logical step in creating an overall lifestyle brand. They also are seeking to strike while the iron is hot. According to market research firm The NPD Group, sales of infant and toddler clothing jumped 8.4 percent to $33.3 billion last year. That increase outpaced the growth of overall apparel sales, which rose by just 5.1 percent to $190 billion last year.

“The kids’ market is strong, but we’ve really seen it booming over the last two years, especially,” said Pan Philippou, chief executive officer of Diesel USA, whose Pumib infant jeans retail at Nordstrom for $79. “The market has taken off in a different direction because people are spending more on their kids now.”

The nature of the product begs the question of what parents are paying premium prices for their infant or toddler to sport jeans that will be outgrown within a matter of months for youngsters, even weeks for the infants.

“We recognize that the premium nature and corresponding price tag of our jeans definitely appeals to a specific client, but that client is at least conscious of the brand and appreciates its quality,” said Morrison.

Just as celebrities have driven the adult premium market, so, too, have celebrity children. Tweens, teens and adults are all interested in what the hottest celebrities are wearing, so of course, their children’s wardrobes are getting scrutinized, as well.

Suri Cruise has been reportedly spotted donning True Religion jeans, Courteney Cox has admitted that she and daughter Coco, two, both wear Chip & Pepper denim jeans (which retail for $99 to $128), and Shiloh Jolie Pitt was photographed in her Lit’l Earnies, from Earnest Sewn.

“Our customers have told us they buy Lit’l Earnie because they fit well, wear well and last longer,” said Morrison. “But there’s definitely the fashion element and the brand recognition, too.”

Celebrity designers, such as Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, Tory Burch and Kimora Lee Simmons, have entered the children’s wear race with their lineup of kids’ wear. Other big names such as new mom Gwen Stefani, who has a shoe line out for kids, and even the team of Victoria Beckham and Katie Holmes have reportedly expressed interest in designing kids’ apparel.

Brands and designers are becoming increasingly aware of the impact creating a children’s line can have on their overall sales. By the time children reach their teenage years, they’ve developed their own sense of style and know what they want and don’t want. But names in the denim industry are finding that kids have a much larger say in their wardrobes at an even earlier age.

“The younger they are, the more they know what they want,” said Diesel’s Philippou. “My daughter is eight years old and even she is making her own decisions.”

Seven’s Highman agrees: “Kids ages seven to 14 are choosing their pieces themselves more and more. They think that they’re grown-ups, they want to look like it. These are great consumers.”

Retailers are enjoying the babies’ and kids’ denim boom. Shops such as Scoop, Barneys New York, Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue have opened their doors to these brands, as have specialty boutiques such as Babesta in New York, Naked Baby Boutique in Los Angeles and Psychobaby in Chicago.

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