The luxury kids’ swimwear market is bigger than ever before, so what’s driving it? Carolyn Asome finds out.
The luxury childrenswear market has never looked in ruder health (it’s expected to hit an eye-watering £7.7 billion by 2019, according to Mintel), but what might surprise some parents is the sheer amount of designer kids’ swimwear that looks set to hit a beach near you this summer.
Blame it on parents with higher disposable incomes or our insatiable appetite for mini-me fashions, but our little people will no longer be decked out in naïve sailing boat motifs or garish neons. Sales are up at Harrods and Selfridges, and business is booming everywhere else, too.
Clare Sprigings, Buyer for Childrenswear at Selfridges, agrees that the mini-me trend has been filtering through to swimwear. “Brands such as Vilebrequin are great options for father-and-son duos who want to hit the beach in style,” she says.
Elizabeth Cliff, General Merchandise Manager at Harrods, has launched numerous designer labels in recent months, many of them exact mini-me versions of the womenswear and menswear collections from Pucci and Zimmermann.
One thing that retailers, shoppers and fashion designers fervently agree on is that social media, specifically Instagram, has had a lot to answer for in the past few years. Candice Fragis, Buying & Merchandising Director at Farfetch, says: “It’s a no-brainer: cute child dressed in cute or on-trend outfit next to famous parents equals photo op made in heaven. At Farfetch, we sold out of both the kids’ and adult styles of the lemon print Dolce & Gabbana dresses and bikinis.”
For many it is the chance to offer the whole family the same look. Keen to pair your quirky-cool look with theirs? Head to Danish brand Molo. Fancy a serving of Alessandro Michele’s colourful mash-up at Gucci? Well now you can indulge your eight-year-old in a similar outfit. Certainly many women do.
At Caramel, Eva Karayiannis’s assortment of ditsy-print ruffled florals and in-house designed geometric prints were born as an antithesis to sugary, mass-produced childrenswear. Here was a collection that offered sophisticated attire in a non-garish colour palette that felt fashion-forward and was more likely to complement a mother who dressed in understated, hard-to-pinpoint niche labels. “Why couldn’t the same apply to swimwear?” she wondered.
Because let’s face it, if you’ve splashed out on Solid & Striped or Lisa Marie Fernandez for yourself this summer, the last thing you want is a multi-coloured unicorn ruining the family photo.
The former fashion journalist and Founder of the fashion and accessories label Prism, Anna Laub launched a children’s line earlier this year – a highly covetable collection of monochromatic zig-zag and colourful leopard print at around £55 a pop. “I didn’t want to spend £100 but I wanted something that was an antidote to Speedos or anything too girly or dripping with sparkle and glitter,” she says. “I’d been developing them for the LA market. I make and develop all our materials and all our products are made in France and Italy.”
So is the outlay worth it – especially when you consider that upmarket swimwear will probably only fit for one season and be brought home stained with suncream? Well, yes, if decking out kids in non-ubiquitous gear is your thing, and if you’re keen to ensure quality, such as no saggy bottoms and in many cases, built in sun protection, too.
Take Sunuva, the label that first came to prominence thanks to its sophisticated incorporation of the UV materials it was made from. “We saw a very similar parallel to skiwear,” explains Co-Founder Emily Cohen. “You probably had something dreadful that was very functional but not very stylish, like a zip up all-in-one, perhaps with a Bob the Builder vibe [the horror of which is all too clear to see on her face]. When we started there was no stylish UV element to swimwear and so we began to research it to see if it could be done.”
“We also wanted to use our in-house prints,” says her Co-Founder, Sabrina Naggar. “The choice at tradeshows was terrible,” she says, rolling her eyes. “It was all very obvious, with trucks for boys, and we wanted to create cool, stylish prints, a sort of Bohemian Ibiza twist, lovely colours and a keen sense of detail that you couldn’t find on the high street.”
The rise can also be put down to the fact that swimwear is no longer limited to the pool or beach and can be teamed – dressed up or down – with a polo top, shirt or skirt for a summery evening,” says Daniele Sismondi, Founder of the luxury kidswear agency Brand Stable.
As Cliff at Harrods points out: “All the designer swimwear brands maintain the same quality standard in childrenswear as they do for their adult ranges, which is incredibly important, and the level of detail has to be exciting whether it’s pieces adorned with multi-colour tassels or beautiful embroidery.”
She has a point. Because ultimately, we are buying for our fantasy escape, the few weeks a year we get to live in an alternative reality. As the Buying Director of matchesfashion.com once told me, she’d always daydreamed about what you might pack to wear on a yacht, in Morocco, Ibiza… All of a sudden, the clean minimalism of the urban daily commute flies out the window and in comes a proliferation of bells and pom poms. Now it seems we don’t want our children to miss out either.