When most parents think about their children's fashion choices, it is in the context of trying to convince them they cannot wear their Halloween costume to Thanksgiving dinner with their grandparents. They aren't usually wondering which of this year's Gucci, Prada and Balmain runway items is the right look for their tiny tot.
But some parents are thinking bigger these days. Way bigger. Today, the truly sartorially advanced child can walk the walk in an $865 embroidered Gucci sweater or $390 Fendi sandals. And the choices range far and wide from there: Dolce and Gabbana, Moncler, Elie Saab, Givenchy and Balmain are just a short list of the very big names now making clothes for very small people.
Who buys this stuff for a demographic of clothes wearers likely to cover themselves in juice, mud or whatever sticky things they can lay their hands on? And not to mention, outgrow it in about 15 minutes? Enough parents to rack up about $5.89 billion a year in sales (versus the $203.4 billion that children's apparel racks up annually).
Childrenswear is the fastest-growing apparel segment, outpacing womenswear with 5 percent annual growth. And people are waiting longer to have children, getting established in jobs before seeking to reproduce. Americans are also having fewer children on average, which adds up to modern parents with a bit more disposable income at their disposal.
Plus, celebrities and their preciously dressed offspring have placed a rather unique "keeping up with the Joneses" pressure on parents. Or, to be accurate, it is really more of a "keeping up with the Kardashians" pressure, as young North West (scion of Kim Kardashian and Kanye) has been collecting tiny Balmain jackets since before she could walk – though hers were all custom-made, because Balmain has only begun offering kids' items in the last few years. Blue Ivy Carter – Beyoncé and Jay-Z's progeny – is more of a Gucci girl, with a fondness for play frocks and branded logo purses. Harper Beckham, the outcome of combining soccer player David Beckham with spice girl Victoria Beckham, likes to mix it up a bit: Chloé tops, Burberry coats and Ferragamo ballet flats are all favorites.
And where the rich and famous go, the Instafamous(ish) are sure to follow.
Yelena Pukay, an Oregon-based personal shopper and mother of four, has reportedly amassed 34,000 Instagram followers who avidly wait to see her youngest daughter Jasmin's daily outfits. Pukay reports that she shops for herself at Zara, but for her Instapopular baby, it's the best or bust.
"When I go to the store, I first shop for my kids, then for myself," she says. "I'm one of those moms, you know?"
And according to Saks Fashion Director Roopal Patel, as parents' habits change, so do the habits of the stores that cater to those parents.
"We saw that there were more locals coming in and shopping with their children during the week," explained Patel. "We really saw an opportunity to develop more of a mommy-and-me concept, which we didn't have on the floor originally. So we started to test out childrenswear in line with the adults. If Mom is buying a lot of Gucci, chances are the little one is going to be dressed in a lot of Gucci as well."