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Early editions for the designer kids

Indian designers have found that there’s a large market in creating custom-made clothes for little ones. It seems that after bridal and prêt, designer wear for children – aged 0 to nine – is the new buzzword in fashion circles.

fashion and trends Updated: Apr 09, 2011 19:08 IST
Jhilmil Motihar

Jennifer Lopez does a fine job of being the focus of flashbulbs. But in a recent ad, two pint-sized individuals stole her thunder – her two-year-old twins Max and Emme. The three were posing for the kidswear line from Gucci. Perhaps taking their cues from the international market, Indian designers too are aiming big by going small. After bridal and prêt, designer wear for children – aged 0 to nine – is the new buzzword in fashion circles.

Rumblings of custom-designed clothes for tots in India started two years ago, at a time when prêt became significantly accessible. As special favours for regular clients, designers started making one-off pieces for children too. “We’ve done kidswear for regular clients on a custom order basis – mostly wedding wear,” says Hyderabad-based Anand Kabra. But it’s only now that the designer plans a kidswear collection. “We’re targetting kids aged four years and above. Indian wear is my forte, so my collection will be on the dressier side,” he says.

Jennifer LopezKabra, like others, decided to expand only after they had a sound business proposition in place. So when Mumbai-based fashion writer Minoti Sampat approached designers with the idea of a multi-designer store for kids, a number came on board. Sampat’s store, Mal, in Juhu, has designs by many designers. "A lot of my friends would go on about how they were buying Burberry trenches and Dior bibs for their kids. I wondered why we didn’t have something like this in India. That is how I thought of this store," says Sampat.

Version 1.0
Mal’s concept might be novel for India, but it isn’t the only one. Kidology, a kids’ designer wear store at DLF Promenade mall in Delhi, became the first to tap into this segment. Kidology’s owners – Ankur Mittal, Neha Sachar Mittal, Karina Rajpal, Maya Nocon and Namita Rajpal – commissioned designers to make clothes using their production facility. So although Gauri and Nainika, Gaurav Gupta, Malini Ramani and Namrata Joshipura are on board, the designs are exclusively for Kidology. “With a store like this, designers can focus on their core strength without getting into the hassle of production and distribution,” says Ankur Mittal.

Labels, however, don’t come cheap. Though it’s not difficult to find a hairband, clips or a bib for around Rs 300-500, the clothes aren’t what you’d call economical. At Mal, the average price is between Rs 1,500 and Rs 3,000; tuxedos and bandhgalas can go up to Rs 8,000. At Kidology, dresses cost between Rs 3,000-5,000 and go up to Rs 10,000. But price doesn’t seem to matter. According to Kidology’s owners, they sold 200 pieces in the first 10 days and have already expanded their base by stocking at Ogaan and Bibs and Cribs in Delhi and Zoya in Mumbai. Sampat also has plans to open in south Mumbai and Delhi.

One might be tempted to think that the demand for kiddie designer duds is the society ladies’ bid to keep up, but that’s not entirely true. Azmina Rahimtoola, co-owner of Zoya, says that it would be silly to expect a non-designer wear buyer to suddenly start buying labels for her children. Zoya has been stocking kidswear and Rahimtoola says that the response has been excellent, but the market is extremely price sensitive too. “We stocked clothes by Savio Jon a few seasons ago and they sold out in three days,” she says, adding that they were between Rs 1,500 and Rs 3,000, the ideal price point. But when Zoya stocked clothes from Kidology, Rahimtoola says that though they received queries, people backed away when they heard the price.

The style game
There’s a very simple explanation why designer wear for kids is climbing the popularity charts. Parents want their children to look nicer, and since that option is available, they’re lapping it up. Meghna Syal Chadha, mother to two-year-old Nirvana, splurges whenever she has excess cash. She’s bought her daughter Gucci shoes; a Dior dress, a few Burberry garments, an in-house designer dress from Kidology and a Gauri and Nainika for Kidology frock. “I buy whatever I find cute but expensive clothes are for occasions,” she says, adding that her cut-off is Rs 10,000 although she admits to having splurged Rs 15,000 on Gucci sneakers.

Chadha’s sister-in-law is equally indulgent with five-year-old Amaira. “My mother travels a lot and buys a lot of stuff for my daughter. We now have Zara Kids in India, which has great casual stuff. And with designer wear, special occasions are taken care of. I think my daughter’s set for a few years at least,” she says.

Mumbai-based jewellery designer Shaheen Abbas always shopped for her son Arsalaan and daughter Ayatal when travelling abroad. But after she bought a couple of Masaba Gupta dresses for her three-and-a-half-year old daughter, Ayatal, she’s a convert. “What I’ve seen of Masaba is really good,” she says, adding that she’d never spend crazy amounts of money on kids’ clothes because they outgrow them. “My cut-off is Rs 5,000 but that is for occasions like Eid, their birthday or some other festival,” she says.

Comfort is also key. Parents who invest in designer wear know that with designers, quality is assured, which is not a surety when it comes to mass products. Most designers insist that the fabrics used are the softest, embroidery and bling is minimal, all clothes are lined and only zips and buttons are used so that movement isn’t hampered. Anupama Dayal used to design for her young daughter and did her first collection for Paris. “We’re now at Bombay Electric in Mumbai and Evoluzione in Chennai,” she says, explaining that her clothes will always be for little girls. “The garments are minus sexiness and vanity. I put size options where a garment can be worn as a lehenga today and skirt tomorrow or a long tunic today and a shorter top tomorrow,” she adds.

Like Anupama, designer Nikasha Tawadey also did one of her first collections for Bombay Electric. Little lehengas, saris, sherwanis and dhotis were an instant sell-out. The designer now plans a collection priced from Rs 2,500 to Rs 6,500. “We line the clothes with softest mul and everything is covered in fabric so no sharp edges poke out,” she says.

That’s also Aneeth Arora’s USP. Her collection for kids – Chota Pero – is in crinkled cotton, so it doesn’t crush. “I did the PTTI kids show in Florence. There I met people from all over and was amazed at the response,” she says. Chota Pero now sells at over 25 stores overseas and in India.

It might be a while before we see racks filled with designer kidswear. However, the sheer number of designers entering the market is an indication of things to come. Says Nishka Lulla, “I get a lot of requests for Hannah Montana-like dresses for all ages.” How long will it be before six-year-olds want their own Sabyasachi?

Big labels go small
Although a few international labels like Burberry, Dior and Missoni have been stocking pint-sized clothes for a while, it’s only now that the demand is hotting up. To meet this demand, scores of labels have either already introduced or announced plans to launch their kidswear line. The list of new entrants is long. There’s Stella McCartney Kids (left), Paul Smith Junior, Sonia Rykiel, Holmes and Yang (launched by Katie Holmes), and more. Even Oscar de la Renta has created a line for little girls, with pleats, and lace.

Hollywood’s stylish tots
Suri Cruise has never worn pants. According to her mom Katie Holmes, she likes skirts and dresses. It may be a bit of a stretch to think that Suri walks around stores picking out clothes, but there’s little doubt she has made tabloids dedicate sections to celeb kid style.

Ever since she was a seven-month-old dressed in a $750 Armani dress, Suri has been a designer darling, wearing labels like Marc Jacobs, Dolce Gabbana Junior, Kid by Phillip Lim, Juicy Couture, Bonpoint, her mother’s label Holmes and Yang and custom-made Roger Vivier flats.

The intense style scrutiny isn’t limited to her. The Beckham boys, Madonna’s daughter Lourdes and the Jolie-Pitt mini playschool have also attracted attention for sartorial choices. But in the parallel universe of celebrity kids, Suri is the queen bee with blogs dedicated to her frills, flounces and footwear. She’s followed by Gwen Stefani’s four-year-old Kingston, Will Smith’s Jaden and Willow, and Nicole Richie’s Harlow, who mirrors her mother in beanies and ballerinas.

- From HT Brunch, April 10

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