School is back in session. With the mid-August to September return to classrooms and daycare centers everywhere, here’s a look at of-the-moment, different and, in some cases, Los Angeles-area-made style options for the little ones in your life who might be eager to rule the hallways or step on the runway — this is L.A. after all.
New and recent children’s clothing brands including Plae and Gardner and the Gang’s capsule collection are offering wardrobe staples such as shirts, pants and shoes in gender-neutral colors and styles in higher quality fabrics and with illustrations that feel high-end and classic – and never pandering. The end result? These young brands are retooling children’s fashion to appeal to a new generation as well as their stylish Angeleno parents.
Gardner and the Gang x Jaime King
“Kids are inherently free,” says Los Angeles-based actress and mom Jaime King. “They love every single color in the crayon box. So why limit girls to pink and boys to blue?” Her capsule collection for Gardner and the Gang reflects that insight in every piece. While dogs and cats aren’t new to children’s wear, the animals hand-drawn by the brand’s designer, Kristin Nystrom, wear sunglasses and give off an aesthetic that’s more fashion illustration than Saturday morning cartoon. And adults who fall for the “Love You”-printed sweatshirt? You’re not alone. Follow in King’s footsteps and buy one of the adult-sized models. Sizes from infant to 8; prices of clothing selections range from $14 to $150; gardnerandthegang.com
Youth Independent Party
Imagine direct-to-consumer luxury basics brand Everlane, but with miniature clothes and miniature prices — and you’ve got children’s label Youth Independent Party. Long Beach couple Krysta Lin and Matt Leaver launched the brand in June as a one-stop, online shop for hyper-soft striped tees; drop-crotch, pocketed pants; and the kind of subtle, elevated details you probably won’t find in an everyday five-pack of T-shirts. Lin says the label’s high-quality and eco-friendly basics make them easy for children to dress up or down and put their own spin on their wardrobe. “And they can still wear their superhero capes and tutus with them,” she says. Sizes from 1 to 10; prices range from $12 to $25; yipkids.com
Rockets of Awesome
Considering the intense style quotient in this New York City-based line, you might be surprised by the obsessively kid-friendly details like pant waistbands lined in ultra-soft T-shirt fabric and a large absence of tags (for the most part). However, it’s the new company’s shopping process that’s truly turning heads: a personalized subscription that delivers a set of new outfits each season. “We're here to do the work for you and simplify your life,” says founder and CEO Rachel Blumenthal, “because every parent could do with one less errand.” Like Pandora, your preferences from what you keep and send back are recorded and used to inform future deliveries. Plus, a personalized shop lets your child’s preferences reign supreme (for example, if they dislike wearing polo shirts, you won’t see them in the next box of outfits). Sizes from 2-14; prices range from $12 to $36; rocketsofawesome.com
Rather than relying on a cast of TV characters, Seattle’s Say Kids tapped a who’s who of grown-up-approved artists for their collection of organic T-shirts. The result is easy, comfy tees printed with clouds, a David Bowie sketch or the phrase “C’est la vie.” While the line is set to expand to other apparel in the fall, the company, which launched in May, is catching the eyes of families because of its understated, style-forward approach. “We wanted to create garments that allow kids to do all of the ‘kid things’ but also make it easy for parents to curate a quality, modern wardrobe that will make getting them dressed a cinch,” says Jennifer Hong, co-founder and head of creative for the brand. Children’s sizes from 1 to 7; tees cost $15; saykids.com
Plae is perhaps the only brand where biometric science meets velcro. That means co-friendly materials have been crafted into flexible, durable shoes created to protect the natural development of your children’s feet yet the designs are more cheerful than orthotic. Interchangeable straps range from pop art-inspired to Olympics-themed, and the site features no-gendered categories. “In today’s day and age, designating shoes by girls and boys [categories] is outdated,” says Trinh Banh, the San Francisco-based brand’s director of media. “There are boys who like sparkles and girls who love race cars.” Selections fit children ages 1 1/2 to 8 and range from $50 to $90; goplae.com
Ultra Violet Kids
While the seasonal collections of traditional children’s labels often are defined by snowflakes or spring flowers, the Atwater Village-based Ultra Violet’s influences appear as if they came out of a couture house. “Fall/winter ’16 feels like a 1970s psychedelic trip met a 1990s rave,” Michelle Chaplin says. Beyond the high-fashion component, there’s a theme of responsibility that runs through those painterly blooms and pattern-on-pattern prints. That’s because Chaplin relies on deadstock and vintage fabrics to reduce the line’s carbon footprint, and the entirely made-in-L.A. collection is known for creating local jobs. Sizes from newborn to 8; prices range from $18 to $150; ultravioletkids.com
Because before back-to-school, it’s back to preschool or daycare, with packs of diapers in tow. And Parasol, based in Walnut Creek, Calif., is a game-changer in the field. Even the most sleep-deprived parents will perk up at the fabric-like softness of the diapers, and the patterns on those diapers, sourced from up-and-coming artists, bring a welcome dose of grown-up coolness to a subject that often lacks style. “Toy trains and cartoon characters aren't style,” says founder and CEO Lisa Hom. “They're an old mentality of what parenthood and childhood are about. I wanted to create something for modern parents that broke through the stereotypes.” Children’s sizes range from 1 to 6; $85 for a month’s supply of diapers and wipes; parasolco.com