Booming kids clothing market traced to moms demand for style

Washington - Their children wear designer jeans, brand-name polo shirts and the finest shoes.

Wealthy parents in the United States are putting their children into the best high quality designer fashions money can buy. Whether it's a Burberry dress for 180 dollars or a coat recently seen on the catwalk for 375 dollars, price is not an issue for rich parents in the US and other places with high concentrations of wealth. As they shop for their youngsters, mothers are increasingly living out their own fantasies and turning their children into copies of themselves.

The US fashion industry is pushing the well-dressed-child trend along by providing fresh designs. In 2007, the children's clothing market was 49 billion dollars. It has been growing continuously for five years, according to a study by Mintel International Group, a leading market research company.

One reason for the development: The growing number of older mothers who have more money and are prepared to invest it in their little darlings, when possible by buying clothing in boutiques rather than off department store racks. As a result there also are more and more stores selling high-end children's clothing, according to Mintel.

About 35 upscale children's clothing brands are vying in the US market. Numerous US designers such as Marc Jacobs and Phillip Lim recently entered the market with high-priced clothing lines for children.

Traditional clothing retailer Burberry for decades licensed out its children's lines, but now is progressively bringing it back in house, according to the LA Times. The newspaper reported in June that the company has put together a team of designers for children's clothing and opened its first kids'-only store in Hong Kong earlier this year. Two more stores are planned in the Middle East and the US by the end of the year.

Hollywood's baby boom has enhanced the trend. Photos of the well turned out children of the stars filling the tabloid magazines have created a desire among mothers to see that their children also look as sharp. Clothing worn by Suri Cruise, 2, or little fashion icons like Maddox Jolie-Pitt and Madonna's daughter Lourdes, quickly become trendy.

There is definitely a Hollywood factor at work, said Ann-Katrin Weiner, editor-in-chief of the international Kids Wear Magazine. In any case what little ones in Hollywood wear is a far cry from velour sweaters and overalls.

Suri Cruise, recently chosen Hollywood's best-dressed child by a US magazine, is often dressed to match her mother, Katie Holmes. They both wear short skirts, lace blouses and patent-leather sandals, the entire outfit looking like its just off the fashion runway. Wiener said children are becoming more and more like accessories.

In coming up with their designs, children's clothing designers are more and more influenced by the adult fashions seen in New York, Milan and Paris.

"It's the first time a line has been so literally inspired by the adult collection," Tracy Edwards, a vice president at Barneys New York, which carries the collection, told the LA Times. "It's fresh and so current to what was happening in adult fashion."

Up to 30 per cent of the looks will be influenced directly by styles seen on the runways, said Eugenia Ulasewicz, president of Burberry in the Americas. The remainder will take its inspiration from Burberry's classic collection.

The trend has not caught on in Germany where customers have not shown a desire to pay hundreds of euros for the little bit of material it takes to create a child's garment. High-end children's shops have had to cope with stagnating sales in the last two years, according to the German association for textile trade. There are only a few dozen children's clothing stores with designer departments where parents with loads of money fill up their little ones' wardrobes.

Of the 2.7 billion euros in children's clothing sales last year, the wealthy clientele contributed only an extremely small part. In Germany low-priced clothing sold at discount grocery stores and bargain bins play a much bigger role in the overall clothing sales.

Hugo Boss, one of the best-known German fashion labels, nevertheless recently chanced stepping into the children's clothing market. The label introduced its first collection for children in late June. Like its US counterparts it is positioned for children in the upscale segment of the market and it is inspired by Boss' adult collection. (dpa)