Words: Carolyn Asome
Only a decade or so ago, you couldn’t move for designer brands – Chloé, Lanvin, Dolce & Gabbana – launching their own childrenswear labels. But the other way round? Not so much. Surely it was only a matter of time before kidswear brands started catering to grown-ups?
Who hasn’t, after all, delighted in a child’s outfit, secretly wishing that a dress or funky-looking knit was available in a larger size? I’m guilty of trying to squeeze myself into an age-12 Elfie/Alex Eagle sweater. Sadly, even a petite 5ft shortie couldn’t get this particularly fetching Aran number to fit over her head.
So yippee for the raft of cool brands, which include German labels Noé & Zoë and Macarons, London stalwart Caramel, and the Spanish Bobo Choses, which are introducing lines for adults.
When Nici Zinell, founder of Noé & Zoë, started her fashion label back in 2011 (one that is characterised by graphic bold prints and today sold in 180 stores in 33 countries worldwide, including Barneys and Harrods and Liberty), she tested the waters with mariniere tops for adults.
“They were immediately popular, but it was difficult trying to pursue both ranges back then as the two markets were quite separate. In the end, I had to stick adults on hold,” says Zinell. It’s a decision she upheld until recently; this summer, the adults offering is back.
To avoid clothes looking too cutesy or ‘maxi-me’, Zinell explains that she only tried shapes she wanted to wear: “T-shirts are really easy as you can include prints and we make them in very nice quality. The strong prints are bold and recognisable. It can sometimes be a challenge to pick the right kind of print because you can’t use all our prints on an adult. You need something that doesn’t look too kiddy.”
Given that buying into a specific aesthetic is on the up, it stands to reason that parents will dress their children in a style that echoes their minimal Scandi interior (or perhaps maximalist, retro décor), as well the way they dress themselves.
In 2017, generations blend more smoothly; with children and parents listening to the same music, watching the same Saturday night TV, or liking the same images on Instagram. It’s something that has not gone unnoticed by retailers.
Eva Karayiannis, founder of Caramel, also thinks the ‘mini-me’ phenomenon is being pursued in a far cooler way.
“Matching what your daughter wore used to have really naff connotations, but I think that’s changed a lot recently, as very stylish dressers have begun to do it in a tasteful and interesting way. Look at how Leith Clark at Harper’s Bazaar pulls it off,” Karayiannis says. The key, she believes, to getting it right is ensuring that the dress shape is age appropriate: “You can be wearing items in the same print but a grown woman would look ridiculous wearing a little girl’s smocked dress (cut too narrowly on the chest) and, consequently, it wouldn’t be right for a small child to wear something so obviously adult-looking.”
She launched her womenswear with six styles, three seasons ago, and while the response has been impressive, she has been careful to position it as a range in its own right. “It’s not just mothers who wear my collection, and I wanted to make sure it appealed to as many women as possible,” Karayiannis says. As a result, the label uses more and more different fabrics in the childrenswear, so that the ‘maxi strain’ has its own personality.
Only four years after the creation of its childrenswear, the German brand Macarons launched the adult version of its classic jumper for men and women. “It will start off with a small line,” explain its founders Julie Carol and Veit Kohlhoff. “For autumn/winter 2017, we are working on eight pieces for the Macarons Homme collection and about 10–12 Macarons Women pieces.”
Another designer who has benefited from this trend is Jess Brown, seven years after she started her eponymous range of dolls. Five years ago, she added womenswear to her collection, starting out with six pieces. The sales from the womenswear line now account for 50 per cent of the business.
Karayiannis says she is pleased that many labels are including womenswear in their offering. With more market, there will be ample opportunity for brands such as Caramel to sell both lines to retailers. Judging by consumer shopping patterns for achieving that 360 per cent ‘co-ordinated lifestyle’ look, homewares may be next. It’s something – naturally – that Caramel have already cottoned onto, but surely the onslaught has yet to begin in earnest?