RISE OF THE MINI-ME

De­mand for lux­ury chil­drenswear is on the up and brands are re­spond­ing with in­creas­ingly so­phis­ti­cated so­lu­tions, writes Sarah Maisey

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De­mand for lux­ury chil­drenswear is on the up, and brands are re­spond­ing with so­phis­ti­cated so­lu­tions

I t’s al­ways tough stay­ing ahead of the fash­ion curve, and those want­ing to stand out from the crowd this au­tumn/win­ter, are go­ing to have to re­ally up their ac­ces­sories game, be­cause the lat­est It bag or shoe du jour is no longer good enough. For those want­ing to break the in­ter­net this sea­son, the new must-have is an off­spring, wear­ing the same out­fit as you. Wel­come to the age of the mini-me. Tak­ing its name from Austin Pow­ers’s tiny dop­pel­gänger, this trend for twin­ning with the chil­dren has been steadily build­ing in pop­u­lar­ity. Fu­elled by celebrity par­ents such as Kim Kar­dashian and Bey­oncé, cou­pled with a seem­ingly in­sa­tiable need to post our lives all over so­cial me­dia, more and more of us are get­ting matchy-matchy with the kids.

In the digital age, small clothes are big busi­ness. A re­port by Global In­dus­try An­a­lysts, en­ti­tled Chil­dren’s Wear: A Global Strate­gic Busi­ness Re­port, pre­dicts that the chil­drenswear mar­ket will be worth $US291 bil­lion (Dh1.06 tril­lion) by the end of 2020. The re­port cited the in­creas­ing num­ber of lux­ury la­bels cater­ing to this seg­ment as a key growth driver.

Sales of chil­dren’s clothes by high-end brands, such as Dolce & Gab­bana, Stella McCart­ney and Chris­tian Dior, are on the rise, driven in part by what the re­port de­scribes as the “grow­ing ex­po­sure of chil­dren to me­dia and the en­su­ing rise in ma­te­ri­al­ism”. In other words, as chil­dren spend in­creas­ing amounts of time on­line, their aware­ness of brands, and their will­ing­ness to voice an opin­ion on their own cloth­ing choices, grows. And, cru­cially, par­ents seem in­creas­ingly pre­pared to in­dulge those choices, re­gard­less of the cost.

With a busi­ness model that spans the globe, on­line shop­ping plat­form Far­fetch.com is well placed to spot chang­ing pat­terns in shop­ping habits. So the fact that it de­cided to launch a chil­dren’s di­vi­sion in March last year is no co­in­ci­dence. In­creas­ingly, the site stocks match­ing out­fits in both adult and chil­dren’s sizes, a move that has been well re­ceived by its cus­tomers.

As Candice Fragis, buy­ing and mer­chan­dis­ing di­rec­tor at Far­fetch.com, ex­plains: “Our cus­tomers love the mini-me fac­tor – kids’ styles that match a piece or print from a brand’s ready-to-wear line are some of our most pop­u­lar items. For ex­am­ple, we re­cently launched Dubai-based la­bel Bam­bah’s new chil­dren’s range, Lit­tle Bam­bah, which of­fers 24 minime pieces pulled from adult col­lec­tions. The de­signer, Maha Ab­dul Rasheed, launched the line in re­sponse to over­whelm­ing de­mand from moth­ers re­quest­ing match­ing out­fits for their lit­tle ones. I think that so­cial me­dia can def­i­nitely be cred­ited with in­flu­enc­ing this type of shop­ping be­hav­iour. The pop­u­lar­ity of our mini-me kidswear styles is likely fu­elled by the al­lure of cap­tur­ing that per­fect Insta-mo­ment.”

As with ev­ery in­dus­try, fash­ion re­lies on profit mar­gins and mar­ket ex­pan­sion for con­tin­ued growth. As wom­enswear reaches sat­u­ra­tion point, brands are look­ing to move into other, less crowded seg­ments, and chil­drenswear is ripe for the pick­ing. Of course, the fact that chil­dren are lit­er­ally still grow­ing is a boon for com­pa­nies, as this is an au­di­ence that is con­stantly in need of new things. It is also, in the­ory, a way of in­still­ing brand loy­alty from a very young age.

Tra­di­tion­ally, the ma­jor­ity of a child’s out­fits were bought by moth­ers, with prac­ti­cal­ity in mind, while ex­pen­sive, more friv­o­lous clothes were pur­chased by ex­tended fam­ily look­ing to lav­ish at­ten­tion on a child. Now, moth­ers are also “in­vest­ing” in those high­cost items, ap­par­ently will­ing to spend on a child’s wardrobe in the same way they spend on their own.

Al­ways quick to fol­low trends, par­ents in the UAE are par­tic­u­larly com­fort­able spend­ing large amounts of money dress­ing their chil­dren in the lat­est de­signer gar­ments. Long known for its adult fash­ion of­fer­ings, Har­vey Ni­chols – Dubai was one of the first stores to see the po­ten­tial for high-end chil­dren’s wear, and has stocked the likes of Dolce & Gab­bana Chil­dren, Fendi Kids and Kenzo Kids for sev­eral years.

As Mar­lène Tronel Che­va­lier, buyer for chil­drenswear at Har­vey Ni­chols – Dubai, ex­plains: “Chil­drenswear is re­ally im­por­tant in this re­gion, and lo­cal cus­tomers usu­ally make sure to dress their kids prop­erly. They are sen­si­tive to lux­ury brands for their lit­tle ones, es­pe­cially for big oc­ca­sions, such as Eid.”

A key trend­set­ter in this par­tic­u­lar arena is Blue Ivy Carter, the 5-year-old daugh­ter of pop roy­alty Bey­oncé and Jay Z, who has had a size­able ef­fect on what is deemed ac­cept­able at­tire for the un­der-5s. Last sum­mer, Blue Ivy and her mother wore match­ing Gucci sun­dresses in Paris, and opted for the la­bel again for the pre­miere of Beauty and the Beast ear­lier this year. This time they wore match­ing green Gucci gowns, with the young Ms Carter’s dress re­tail­ing at Dh7,350. At the MTV VMA awards last year, mean­while, Blue Ivy wore a Mis­chka Aoki princess dress that re­tails for Dh40,500, to com­ple­ment her mother’s Francesco Scog­namiglio cou­ture gown.

Mean­while, Kim and Kanye West’s daugh­ter North, 4, and son Saint, 1, are al­ready ru­moured to be wear­ing cus­tom-made Lager­feld. Mind you, North was wear­ing child-sized Balmain long be­fore it even ex­isted. And last year, the then 3-year-old wore the same Vete­ments se­quinned dress as her mother – all the more no­table given that the brand’s cre­ations are no­to­ri­ously hard to get hold of. More re­cently, to at­test to the fact that age is no bar­rier to twin­ning, Gwyneth Pal­trow and her 74-year-old mother Blythe Dan­ner stepped out in match­ing flo­ral Prada en­sem­bles.

While high-end chil­dren’s clothes are hardly a new idea – Chris­tian Dior launched its Baby Dior line back in 1969 – hav­ing small ver­sions of adult pieces is a much newer phe­nom­e­non. When Bri­tish brand Burberry launched its chil­dren’s line in 2008, it of­fered a scaled-down ver­sion of its adult wear. And de­spite be­ing slow to join the kids’s sec­tor, both Balmain and Givenchy’s chil­dren’s lines, when they fi­nally ar­rived this year, were al­most di­rect fac­sim­i­les of what was seen on the au­tumn/win­ter 2017 readyto-wear run­ways.

The undis­puted master of chil­drenswear, how­ever, has to be Dolce & Gab­bana, which has el­e­vated clothes from sar­to­rial swag to a state­ment of fam­ily de­vo­tion. Pro­moted as an es­sen­tial part of the brand’s “Ital­ian fam­ily her­itage” phi­los­o­phy, the brand has been build­ing its chil­dren’s line as a com­ple­ment to its adult range for the past two years, when it sent dresses em­bla­zoned with the words “I love you mamma” down the run­way.

This ap­proach cli­maxed on the brand’s au­tumn/ win­ter 2017 run­way, when the show opened with the de­signer-model cou­ple Ja­son and Amanda Har­vey clutch­ing their twins Noah and Rose, all dressed in head-to-toe match­ing fe­line prints. Far from be­ing a flash-in-the-pan-trend, the mini-me move­ment seems to be gain­ing trac­tion.

“The ‘mini-me’ trend is in­ter­est­ing be­cause there is an emo­tional com­po­nent to it – that mo­ment of dress­ing up with your child is a real draw for some. Dolce & Gab­bana has been very strate­gic with this, of­fer­ing sea­sonal ‘mini-me’ printed styles that al­ways per­form well,” Fragis ex­plains.

“For ex­am­ple, the brand’s lemon-print dresses and swim­suits sold out si­mul­ta­ne­ously on Far­fetch in both women’s and kids sizes. I def­i­nitely think that the lux­ury chil­drenswear mar­ket will con­tinue to de­velop – the po­ten­tial for growth is mas­sive.”

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