Dinosaur graphics and Disney characters don’t seem to be what’s cutting it in kids’ fashion among a certain set of shoppers. An increasing number of hipster, fashion-forward children’s clothing labels have joined the game, upping the alternatives for what is possible when dressing a burgeoning style-setter.
This runway-to-recess mind-set is no surprise, considering the U.S. kids clothing market did about $30.4 billion in sales in 2014, according to NPD Group market research. Also, thanks to social media, every child can be shown off by parents who display photos of their little ones’ daily ensembles, punctuating their looks with adult accessories such as fedoras, combat boots and vintage-inspired turbans.
“Styles have been so modernized in the past couple years,” says Jenny An, owner and head buyer for LA children’s store Eggy. “Prints have gotten edgier and more urban, and silhouettes are more adult-looking, but in miniature size. In some cases they could be considered avant-garde.”
A number of L.A.-based kid brands reflect what is happening in adult fashion houses, with offerings such as retro surf-inspired pieces, pop-star-worthy sneakers, harem pants and denim jumpsuits. Here are a few of the children’s labels that are leading the pack of pint-sized fashion.
Founded: In March 2014 by contemporary women’s clothing designer Michelle Chaplin
Inspiration: “I’m not inspired by kidswear,” says Chaplin. “My focus is to make beautiful, comfortable kidswear that is appealing to parents as well.”
Look: Harem pants in a variety of prints, ultra suede kimonos, tribal print tank tops and the brand’s pièce de résistance, retro-inspired turbans done in black sparkle fabric.
Nitty gritty: Sizes 3 months-2 years; $48 for harem pants, $22 for turbans; available online at ultravioletkids.com and at Reform School in Los Angeles.
Founded: In March 2014 by Ashleigh Dempster and Matt George
Inspiration: The brand is inspired by the hip shoes and sneakers you can see in any of the urban high-end shops on Fairfax and LaBrea avenues, making them pint-sized with a fun twist for kids. “There is definitely a growing trend in kids’ fashion where parents are spending much more time to seek out brands that are special and different,” Dempster says.
Look: Seriously cool unisex shoes for kids’ small feet. Think clear combat boots, snake-print embossed leather slip-ons and leopard print high-tops.
Nitty gritty: Sizes 4C-3 years; $55 for a low top canvas shoe, $80 for combat boots and $90 for moccasin-inspired sneaker; available online at akidbrand.com and Eggy in Los Angeles.
Founded: In 2009 by Sue Tsai and Momo Suzuki
Inspiration: “I wanted to create a children’s line that appealed to adults and not just kids,” says Tsai.
Look: Thoughtful basics with art-inspired graphics and nontraditional hues for kids, such as plum, gray, mustard and moss green.
Nitty gritty: Sizes 18/24 months-10 years; $38 for a pair of drawstring leggings, $39 for a T-shirt and $115 for a denim jumpsuit; available at niconicoclothing.com and Eggy, Jenni Kayne and Tomboy in Los Angeles.
Founded: In March 2010 by Bonnie Matthews
Inspiration: “Our slogan is ‘We don’t just make clothes, we make memories,’” says Matthews. “In fact our mission is simple: Kids are beautiful being kids.”
Look: “Ralph Lauren meets Little Rascals,” says the designer, whose creations are heavily influenced by her collection of 1920s and 1930s kids’ clothing.
Nitty gritty: Sizes 3 months-14 years; $44 for a boy’s long-sleeved shirt with a Charlie Chaplin graphic on the front, $78 for a plaid dress and $189 for a girl’s coat; available online at bluponyvintage.com and Poppy and Flicka in Los Angeles.
Founded: In 2012 by Christine Chang, a former designer for Hurley, Nike and Ralph Lauren
Inspiration: “I focus first on the design and quality,” says Chang. “Then I comb it over and make sure it is kid-appropriate in terms of movement and comfort.”
Look: Chang’s California roots and experience working in the action sports market is apparent in the vibrant fabrics and vintage surf aesthetic. Think Baja ponchos, quilted sweatshirts and a fringe jacket Chang also made for adults as part of a collaboration with West Hollywood boutique TenOverSix.
Nitty gritty: Sizes 2-12 years; $48 for a girl’s top, $62 for a pair of unisex harem pants and $144 for the kids’ version of the fringe coat; available at shopboyandgirl.com and at American Rag, Steven Alan and Lost & Found in Los Angeles.
Founded: In 2013 by Jon Buscemi
Inspiration: “Luxury and nostalgia are the key words and overarching themes in all of my design inspiration,” says Buscemi, a longtime sneaker fan who also designs shoes for adults.
Look: Monochromatic, high-end sneakers that are essentially mini versions of the adult styles in the Buscemi line. The kid’s high-top sneaker comes in black, white and red.
Nitty gritty: Sizes 0-12 months; $225 for a pair of kid’s sneakers, available at jonbuscemi.com and Union Los Angeles.
Founded: In 2005 by John O’Donnell
Inspiration: “Kids want to be comfortable. My customers want their kids to look clean-cut,” says O’Donnell about his casual yet refined children’s line.
Look: West Coast preppy — polo shirts in sherbet colors, surf-inspired separates and casual “daddy and me” looks.
Nitty gritty: Sizes 2-16 years; $29 for a long-sleeved T-shirt, $49 for a striped polo shirt and $65 for a zip neck pullover; available at johnnie-o.com, Johnnie-O and Kitson in Los Angeles.