Designer Childrenswear Proliferates, Economy Be Damned

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We're heading into a New Year, coming off the worst holiday shopping season in some 40 years, with Chanel pretty much in crisis, retailers taking a rain check on couture, and everyone in the business of selling clothes very, very scared. But the clothing market is not wholly doomed for 2009, as this generation of kids has set out to be the chicest yet. Designer childrenswear is outperforming womenswear in the economic downturn. WWD boldly proclaims that the category is experiencing "bullish year-on-year growth." Why? “There are a lot fewer kids’ brands than adult brands so there’s space to fill, and there’s a whole mini-me [phenomenon] going on where women want to see their kids as extensions of themselves,” ex-Bonpoint designer and artistic director Domitille Brion says. Another kids'-fashion-market analyst cites plateauing birthrates as a reason for the baby-fashion boom, as well as the increased number of career moms with more disposable income.

Barneys New York's top-selling kids lines include Phillip Lim Kids, Little Ella Moss, John Galliano, and Little Marc Jacobs. Naturally, many other designer labels are expanding tot offerings.


Jean Paul Gaultier plans to launch a kids' line next fall.
• Acne launched a kids' line last fall. The label's co-founder says making kids'-store display windows "is so much fun."
• Surface to Air's kids' line for the rebellious set, called Fangs, includes organic T-shirts, sweatshirts, and jeans illustrated by Gordan Hull and will hit racks this spring.
Anne Valérie Hash launched a kids' collection (one little mohair coat: about $500).
Moschino's kids' collection will include three categories, Baby, Kid, and Teen, and hit retail stores in July.
Antonio Marras has been appointed artistic director of Kenzo's kids' line. His first line is for fall 2009.
Lacoste is developing a more fashion-forward kids' line due out in the spring. Also in the works: a limited-edition kids' line (because kids' clothes make great collectors' items).
Burberry will open free-standing kids' stores in places like New York, Hong Kong, and Palo Alto, California, which sound like the cutest thing ever.
Blumarine opened its first kids' shop in Harrods this summer and then two Miss Blumarine flagships in the Ukraine.
D&G's kids' sales rose by 30 percent in 2008.
• Bonpoint is launching a kids' beauty line in the spring and will possibly open kids' spas.
• Phoebe Philo just took over design for Celine, and might launch a kids' line for the house.

No word on how much of this stuff is machine-washable, which is a frightening, frightening thought. (Though now might be a good time for out-of-work bankers to consider opening dry-cleaning businesses.) We all know who we have to blame for this scary proliferation: Suri Cruise. We think we heard on E! or some such that she's now more photographed than her parents, undoubtedly for "her" fashion sense. No better message to send to the Über-young and impressionable than the one that image is everything. Just imagine the cover of Us Weekly in twenty years — "Downfall of a Baby Fashionista." Hey, we are just fine entering old age with the advent of tween rehab.

Designer Kids’ Wear a Growing Market [WWD]

Related: Clothes for Recession-Proof Kids: Fur Slippers, Coats, Boots, and More