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Children’s fashion

Valerie McPhail

(4/2015) Long gone are the days of regular visits to Old Navy and a closet filled with outfits from the Gap. There seems to be a new and interesting culture shift in fashion. Around the time my best friend declared Coco Chanel her role model and obsessed over the Dior travel make-up case her mom bought her (I think we were around 13 years old), a new age of customers began to express their interest in the fashion industry—that is, children.

In response, the industry has turned to design luxurious fashion for children. Ugg makes baby boots, Nike produces mini Jordan’s, and Marc Jacob has a clothing line for kids. These transitions should make sense and follow the phrase "fashion forward." If the industry is clearly making efforts to engage with the world, children’s fashion is a product of these efforts.

After all, fashion consistently innovates. Yet, is this just a marketing stint in the business of the industry or is it an effort to further explore the art of fashion? Either way, parents are faced with more choices in the children’s clothing department. When shopping, parents should consider the various options the fashion industry offers while keeping in mind the practicality of the clothes they buy for their children. For the sake of the purpose of clothes, fashion is essentially functional. The nature of children’s clothes reflects this truth.

If you were to Google search through children’s clothing ads, brand name companies including Ralph Lauren and J. Crew would eventually pop up on the computer screen. These brands occupy an interesting role in the business of children’s clothing because they also work between the runway and retail world of fashion. They have runway shows and presentations during Fashion Week and then sell in department and factory outlet stores. These brands are involved in all areas of the world of fashion. For instance, in addition to the functional use out of a "Sunday dress," or a kid’s size tie, children’s clothes have become works of art on the runway. Luxury brands are advancing this trend. Their contribution in the business of children’s clothing makes the fashion industry more accessible to the world.

Consider Dolce & Gabanna’s Fall 2015 runway show in Milan. Creative Directors Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana sent models down the runway with their children, matching mommy and child outfits throughout the show. This was more than just an event that brought heartwarming smiles to its audience. The show was an expression of love and childhood sentiment. Graphics of roses and children’s artwork were printed on dresses as a way to convey the world of motherhood. This point of view declared a new perspective on fashion. Its message: clothing brands should start designing for their future, children.

Perhaps this new direction is more visible in the retail world. Children’s clothing has become synonymous with the new age "lifestyle brand." That is, a brand that caters to an interest in the various needs of the customer’s life. "Lifestyle brands" connect the fashion industry with the world. The industry is changing. Fashion is no longer exclusive or completely private from customers’ everyday lives. Rather, it is an industry that seeks to relate to the public. One reason for this change is due to the industry’s interest in providing for the various needs of the customer’s life. Children’s clothing lines have become a part of shopping the lifestyle of the brand. Mothers and fathers can shop for their children simultaneously as they shop for themselves.

Lifestyle brands bring a sense of ease to shopping. Think about how J. Crew’s graphic tees are sold alongside water bottles while Brooks Brother’s shot glasses and flasks are paired with dress shirts and ties. It is not a coincidence that both brands have also developed children’s clothing lines. This addition provides an understanding of the new direction of children’s fashion. Kids are an aspect of the customer’s life that the brand designs for. The future and success of these brands requires knowledge of their customers. With this in mind, a market for children’s clothes becomes a reasonable path to pursue. Just as Dolce & Gabbana insist, why cannot babies be as fashionable as their moms and dads who shop their brand and walk their runway?

Rather than insist that these luxury runway shows only serve to entertain the guests that attend, one should consider how they are relevant to the rest of the world. Dolce & Gabbana clearly presented a perspective. At a time when the public is curious about celebrity parents who dress their children to match their own outfits, the message of this runway show could not be any more clear. The lifestyle of famous moms and dads includes the fashions their children are wearing. The concept of fashion news in the tabloid magazines has now made an appearance on the runway. People enjoy seeing how the outfits of mamma, dad and child all match. Fashion Week not only offers fashionistas/os with a list of trends, but also a perspective on the world. This past runway season, children’s clothing became a part of this conversation. The idea about how children wear clothes is changing.

Children wear clothes to grow out of them. They run around at recess, ruin their jeans with grass stains, and spill soda pop on their favorite shirt. At least my childhood was filled with these memories. Clothes become a uniform for their adventures at school and a way to express their favorite cartoon character on their t-shirts and sweatshirts. There is practicality in this approach to children’s clothes. Clothing becomes a fun way to express personality. High fashion enables this method of dressing. Yet, there should be a reason for why children need to wear expensive clothes. Fashion brings meaning to the practicality of clothing.

Handmade outfits, a popular pastime for some young families, is another approach to keeping children’s fashion practical yet creative. This hobby is the pinnacle of the creative pursuit of fashion. It encourages parents and children to design for their own needs. Handmade fashion adds a personal touch to clothing items and outfits. It is an opportunity for parents to feel comfortable in dressing their children in clothes that will work for in their child’s lifestyle while also allowing room for personal expression. Handmade clothes reveal the relationship between designers and customers. These lifestyle brands present pieces that allow customers to communicate themselves, and their children, by the way they dress.

With the endless options and current trends in children’s fashion, parents should consider how their child will wear the clothes they buy. For the springtime, bright colors, floral prints, and stripes are consistently trendy for the season. Layers are key items that create outfits during the transitions into warmer weather. Light windbreakers and sweaters are among these basic items that will bring more comfort in unpredictable weather patterns. Practicality is the key part to the art of dressing younger children.

The fashion industry is currently developing ways of relating fashion to life. There is trend in societies’ obsession with fashion-forward parents who use their own sense of style to dress their children. Fashion has responded through the development of lifestyle brands and designs from the Fall 2015 fashion season. Happy shopping!

Read other articles by Valerie McPhail