For her elder brother’s wedding, Sneha wore a lehenga in brocade and net, teamed with sparkling heels, and completed the look with a high hair bun studded with glitzy hair accessories. All of 12, Sneha was satisfied with her look but wished she had gone for a halter neck instead of the plain square one.
During the sale season in August, it wasn’t only her mother but also 11-year-old Pallavi making a run for the malls after school hours to buy the pastel denim and frilled skirt she had laid her eyes on for long.
Sneha and Pallavi, both in secondary school, speak of a growing tribe of kids who show a fashion consciousness much above their age and boast of an affluent closet as stocked with fashionable clothes and accessories that perhaps their mums do.
Kids fashion is growing in the city is a big way, and fashion houses are going all out to woo this clientele that is anything but small.
The trend is evident from the number of such stores opened in the city of late. While 612 Ivy League, a Chandigarh-based apparel brand for “tweens” (roughly between the age of 6 and 12) opened in Westend Mall early this year, another kids brand from Delhi Lil’ Diva opened shop in MBD Neopolis this week. Homegrown clothing brand Duke, though manufacturing kids apparel for four decades, is all set to open exclusive stores for children wear for the first time shortly. The brand also revamped its kids collection a few years ago and introduced a special ‘smart fit’ line for the pint-sized. “Gone are the days when kids wore ill-fitted or loose clothes for the concern that they would soon outgrow the size. Kids clothing has evolved into an independent market now,” says brand director Kuntal Jain, while observing a 25% annual growth in the market for kids wear over the last couple of years. “Our kids collections are now inspired by European cuts and styles, to suit the taste of the children here,” adds Jain.
Established brands such as Tommy Hilfiger, United Colours of Benetton and Levi’s too keep a considerable stock of kids wear and renew the collection each season. Niche brands such as Lilliput and Catmoss are already up and running in the city.
Wooing kids don’t just limit to stocking up on kids wear and offering them multiple options, but incorporates savvy marketing strategies adopted by fashion houses. International kids apparel brand Unikid (that has four stores in the city) for instance launched a glossy six-page newsletter last year to connect with its young clientele. Unikid Times as it was called contained rich readable content such as health tips for kids and mothers along with offering a catalogue splashed with attractive colourful photos. For a better brand connect, the newsletter also gave an insight and a feel of the brand, its journey and aspirations. The idea was a success and the brand plans to come out with such newsletters every six months now, says brand director Heena Nayar, noting that the kids market in India is huge and fast growing. “Since our launch in 2008, we have been witnessing a growth of 15-18% annually, and nationally have grown from six exclusive stores four years ago to 30 now,” she says.
The marketing strategies include luring kids with attractive add-on offers. How about dressing up the girl and her Barbie in the same clothes? Lil’ Diva gives that option. Dealing exclusively in girls wear, with the range beginning at Rs 2000 and going up to Rs 6000-Rs 7000 for the readymade clothes, the store also customizes clothes for kids. “Show us a magazine, a photograph or suggest a look and we can create it. We have the material and designers ready,” says brand director Gurbani Arora. Such customized clothes usually cost an upwards of Rs 15000, and the price may shoot up if a matching bag, pair of shoes and accessories are bought from the store. Further, the rich interiors at the store done in ivory, pink and gold, featuring flowers and crystals as well as a chic trial room, add to the appeal of the brand and lures in little customers.
For boys fashion too, fashion houses such as Vasari offer myriad options in fabrics, cuts and styles. A miniature sherwani, suit or kurta pajama, anything can be created for your little man, with the price matching that of an adult’s piece.
The local fashion designers note that the trend of similar dress sported by mother-daughter duo has caught up in a big way. “Around a decade ago, a frock for girls and a shirt and pant for boys was the final thing. Today neither the parents nor the kids would settle for this arrangement. Clothes for kids are now planned and designed well before the wedding or parties. And mother-daughter duo wanting similar lehenga, shararas, evening gowns, short suits, Anarkali suits or Achkans in similar cut and colours is a rage,” observes designer Sonu Gandhi, who, in her collection showcased at a local fashion show recently, walked mother-daughter duos on the ramp sporting similar wear. Sharing an interesting anecdote, Sonu says a harried client visited her recently, requesting a lavish piece for her daughter to be designed in two days. The reason? The barely 13-year-old apparently was upset with the lehenga bought for her.
Sonu also notes that the confidence and gleam in the eyes of little girls while giving measurements for the dress taken even her by surprise.
The trend may be debatable. While kids are becoming more assertive of their choices, parents are going out of their way to accommodate the dreams and desires of their young ones. Shipra Jain, a mother of two girls aged one and six, observes that while kids are demanding more given the increased exposure to fashion, the parents are more than happy to indulge them than ever before. “We have nuclear families and one or two kids, so the spending power on each becomes more,” she says. On the other hand, Dr Arun Sood, Senior Consultant with Department of Psychiatry at Christian Medical College and Hospital strongly disapproves of this increased indulgence. “Competition among parents has increased and unfortunately they are letting it take its toll on kids who have now become an accessory to flaunt. Indulging a child to this extent makes him or her vulnerable to societal pressures. Those who are running businesses will deploy strategies to sell their wares, but it is the duty of the parent to shield their kids from such influences,” she opines.
Beautician Indira Ahluwalia, who has been in the trade for nearly three decades, shares her discomfort with this young clientele. “Parents come to us and ask for a specific bun or plait to be sported by their 10 year olds. I agree the kids look cute but some of them end up looking ten years above their age. I would prefer if the young ones looked their age,” she says.
But fashion finds as well as creates its followers, for parents aren’t complaining. “My child becomes happy when she is wearing a nice cloth. It gives her confidence. She is happy, and so I am happy too,” says Sangita Marwaha, a mother of a nine-year-old.
In a study published last year, Associated Chamber of Commerce and Industry found that the kids apparel market in India is growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of about 20 and is likely to reach Rs. 80,000 crore by 2015 from the current level of about Rs 38,000 crore. Higher economic growth, higher disposable income for parents, rising media exposure and growing brand awareness have led to the rapid growth.