This past March, I was tapping through Instagram Stories when I came across Joana Avillez’s toddler wearing a pair of rolled-up balloon pants in a bright purple and teal gingham that made him look like an adorable clown. I was too shy to DM, so instead I Googled variations on “purple gingham pants kids” until these “magenta gingham pants” popped up from the children’s boutique Playground Love, which is based in Athens, Georgia.
The $32 price tag seemed more reasonable than what you’d find at Zara Kids (plus I had a discount code), so I ordered them along with a couple of other items for my 4-year-old, including a second pair of similarly cut pants with a pattern of white daisies on a dark-gray background. When the package arrived, I noticed that the gingham trousers read “Yaoyuan” on the tag, while the daisy pair’s were marked “AD Baby.” Googling turned up nothing for either brand. And though both pants were cute in an “Eileen Fisher for kids” way, they were also comically long by several inches, with disproportionately tight, elasticized waists.
I had been under the impression that the clothes were original designs by the boutique, but with the disparate tags, now it seemed there was something else afoot. Shortly after, I started seeing Instagram ads for the same daisy pants — but from different stores, at slightly different price points. Milk Teeth had them for $42, while Ri-Ri-Ku’s were marked down to $28 from $45. (All Small had them too, before they sold out, as well as the gingham pants.) None of the product descriptions mentioned a brand or country of origin, but they all suggested styling them cuffed, since they seemed to be designed for kids with preternaturally long legs.
Curious to see where these pants came from, I reverse-Google-image-searched and found them on Etsy and AliExpress, where they were listed for a third of the price. For the sake of journalism, I had to order a pair to compare to the ones from Playground Love. (The pants were available at other AliExpress stores for as cheap as $11, but to be on the safe side, I ordered from one that had the most reviews and 500-plus units sold.)
The AliExpress trousers arrived well packaged and as described — and, it turns out, identical to the Playground Love pair, down to the brand: AD Baby. The only difference was in size — I ordered a 3T (100 cm) from Playground Love and a 4T (110 cm) from AliExpress, which was enormous at six inches longer and two inches wider, even though it was just one size up. Looking for a concrete answer, I reached out to all four stores that carried the daisy pants; both Playground Love and Milk Teeth wrote back immediately and confirmed that they were indeed from AD Baby.
“We get them through our wholesale partner in Seoul,” wrote Milk Teeth co-owners Catherine Newell-Hanson and Rebecca Calavan. “These have been very popular and are best sellers.” They went on to explain that when they started their online shop, they began sourcing brands from the Korean kids’ wholesale market “due to their oversize, unisex silhouettes” with elastic waists to fit a range of ages and body types. (Asian brands are particularly fond of “one size fits most” sizing.) “We’ve seen them on some other stores too, and we know some stores put their own label in them, but we didn’t design them, we just sell them as part of our edit,” they added.
Playground Love owner Becky Burke had a similar story. “The Flower Balloon pants are by a brand called AD Baby and are from one of our suppliers located in China,” she wrote. “We carry clothes from many vendors all over the world, some name brands that are more well known and some that are not.”
This is standard retail practice, of course: buying wholesale from a distributor, then marking up the price. But the lesson here is the next time I see something that doesn’t have a brand name associated with it, I might be inclined to do a reverse-image search to compare prices — though buying from a U.S.-based store with actual customer service definitely beats putting my credit-card information into the black hole that is AliExpress and waiting a couple of weeks for an overseas shipment.
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