IS THE PLAYGROUND THE NEW CATWALK?

AS A STRING OF DESIGNER LABELS BRING OUT KIDSWEAR COLLECTIONS, CLOSET CHARMS LOOKS INTO THE RISE OF THE MINI FASHIONISTA

Style icons seem to getting younger and younger year after year, eight-year-old Romeo Beckham made it to number 26 on GQs best dressed list in January 2011, beating off stiff competition from Prince William and heartthrob Rob Pattinson. More recently five-year-old Suri Cruise came in at number 21 for Glamour UK’s best dressed list of 2011, ahead of fashion favourites Sarah Jessica Parker, Nicole Ritchie and Lady Gaga. No question top designer labels have begun to reach out to the kidswear market, to feed the appetite of fashion enthusiasts under the age of ten.

Lanvin has decided that SS12 is the season to return to its kidswear roots, after moving into womenswear in recent years. Alber Elbaz’s first sketches include dresses, jumpers, coats and t-shirts, for girls aged four to ten. The 25 piece collection will be made in the finest fabrics, to be in keeping with the tradition and style of the brand – perfect for little fashion princesses everywhere.

Lanvin Petite SS12.

Last year Gucci also launched its debut kidswear line, with an array of clothing, shoes, accessories and gifts for tiny trendsetters, boys and girls from 0-24 months, and 2-8 years. Pieces are adorned in gold Teddy bears, and the double G, including baby grows, tux jackets, and dresses – all cutesy versions of Gucci classics. The debut collection marks the sixth anniversary of the labels partnership with UNICEF too, and was created to celebrate their million pound donation to the charities ‘Schools for Africa’ initiative. Plus new mum Jennifer Lopez fronted the advertising campaign with her baby twins.

The Gucci Kids ad campaign featuring Jennifer Lopez and her coconuts.

In fact, D & G, Burberry, Armani, Fendi and Stella McCartney are amongst this new list of labels that are breaking into the market to extend their brands’ identity to the mini-mes. All inspiration has been taken directly from the latest adult lines, including pattern, print and cut, right down to the same luxurious fabrics, making the pieces up to date and super stylish.

Armani Junior SS11.

Lapo Cianchi, director of press and special events at Pitti Immagine, who organises the Pitti Bimbo kidswear trade and fashion show in Florence, says: “Kids fashion is growing, and therefore many brands are giving more and more importance to fashion for kids.”

Marianne Schneuwly, who works in the marketing and communications department of kidswear specialist Groupe Zannier, which works under licence for Paul Smith Junior, Little Marc Jacobs, Junior Gaultier and Kenzo Kids adds: “The fact that all these big brands are launching kidswear ranges, really shows that there is a place in the market for it. The fashion industry used to mainly cover women in the past, then it moved into men, and now it’s moving into kids, it’s a natural expansion.”

But what has sparked this wave of designer fashion for kids?

The media is a good starting point, not only with an increased access to the world of fashion – fashion blogs, online magazines and shopping, but also with the coverage of celebrity seeping down to the offspring of the rich and famous. Children of all ages can now read, buy and soak up fashion on the internet, or even start up their own fashion blogs. Think about Tavi Gevinson, the ultra successful US fashion blogger who started up Style Rookie at the tender age of 11, taking the fashion blogosphere by storm. Then there is the likes of Romeo Beckham and Suri Cruise being snapped in designer clothes, and the kids want to copy their outfits. No question this raised awareness and interaction with fashion has brought a younger interest in the industry, with designers lining up and willing to please.

Schneuwly says: “Kids follow celebrity as well, and they want to have the same items, and look the same. The media now turn celebrity kids into style icons, and therefore kids want to look fashionable at a younger age. The playground is getting extremely fashionable, in terms of which brand of shoes you are wearing, and which back pack you have.”

Kenzo Kids SS11.

The difference in customer and class demographics has also had a big impact, given the economic crisis and recession in recent years – expression of wealth has become increasingly important. We all know clothes are representative of personality, so why wouldn’t you want your kids to dress well too?

According to Schneuwly there are two different types of customer: “Obviously there are people with a lot of money, so buying luxury kidswear is natural. Jean Paul Gaultier has couture dresses that retail up to £200, which would appeal to those interested in fashion and who can afford to spend. Another category includes cheaper branded items like t-shirts from Gucci or D & G, a customer purchasing these might just want to buy into the name.”

Michele Harriman-Smith, CEO and marketing director of luxury kids retailer Children’s Salon, adds: “There are families who are not very wealthy but still send their children off to expensive private schools, make cut backs and put all their money into something special. It is the same with clothes, you have mothers who want to put all their money into certain pieces because they love the quality.”

Lynda Collett, a medical receptionist, who likes to buy designer clothes for her children agrees: “I don’t have a huge income but like investing in luxury clothes for my children. It makes them look good, and when they look good, they feel good and are happy. You can’t put a price on luxury.”

Paul Smith Junior SS11.

However, despite these designer labels moving into the market, luxury kidswear really isn’t that new. Lanvin for example is simply just returning to its roots with the SS12 range, kidswear was actually its first department back in 1908.

Creator Jeanne Lanvin would sew pieces for her daughter Marguerite that enchanted mothers in the same social circle. These other mothers soon demanded pieces for their own children, and later similar pieces for themselves, which led to the birth of the fashion house.

Although time has passed with Lanvin growing famous for its remarkable womenswear, kidswear really lies at the heart of the label. Louise de Vilmorin sums up the work of Jeanne Lanvin in this statement: “She sewed to dazzle her daughter, and in doing so she dazzled the world.”

Luxury retailer Children’s Salon has had a successful history dating back to the fifties, and kids trade and fashion show Pitti Bimbo is now in its 73rd edition as well.

Harriman-Smith says: “If you go back 20 years, there were still luxury items for children. The pure cotton, the hand smocking, it was luxury whether it was called designer or not. Children have always loved to dress pretty, twirling around in a pink puff ball dress or pair of jeans in the mirror, this hasn’t changed.”

In this sense the luxury kids market maybe experiencing a growth, but it certainly isn’t as new as it appears. The rise of the mini fashionista on the other hand is definitely a new breed of style icon that designers are snapping up to cater for. I do wonder though, if Suri Cruise even knows the stir she causes on the fashion scene when she leaves the house in the morning.

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