Not long ago, parents purchased clothing
specifically designed to maximize their child’s cute quotient.
Little girls looked starched and adorable in smocked dresses
with puffed sleeves, and little boys got down and dirty in froufrou-free
denim overalls and T-shirts.
Today’s demanding children, not content to let their moms and dads call the fashion shots, want clothing as stylish as their parents’ attire, or, if the adults in their lives are fashion challenged, as hip, and sexy as Brittany Spears and Jennifer "J. Lo" Lopez.
For little Mini Me’s, the fall collections offer scaled-down versions of looks that have been popular in women’s wear for the past few seasons. One trend in girls’ collections, dubbed "boho" or bohemian hobo, is a mix-and-match peasant-style affair pairing T-shirts or blouses - many in lace with puckers and puffs galore - with patched denim or multi-patched print skirts.
Denim continues to be a hot item, but unlike last season’s hard-edged, glitter-dusted looks, this season’s offerings are embroidered or embellished, sometimes with beading, and have a naive, hand-done, folksy sensibility. To further soften the look, denim is offered "deconstructed," either with exposed seams, unfinished hems or waistbands. "Trompe l’oeil," or fool-the-eye treatments, mimic worn knees or wrinkled creases near the zipper.
For boys, designers have taken athletic wear out of the gym and into the classroom by including big, long sleeved T-shirts printed with team logos, numbers and stars in their everyday collections.
These added extras - the beading on a pair of jeans, a leather lace that closes the side of a skirt, or a faux-fur collar on a soft knit cardigan - speak to the demand consumers have for "added value," or, that little bit of detail that can transform an ordinary garment into something special.
In Brooklyn, several children’s wear designers have embraced a more-for-the-dollar aesthetic. Their fall collections - whether they’re clean and modern or funky and trend-driven - offer parents, and their increasingly style-conscious offspring, tasteful, practical clothing with a playful flair.
Cords for kids
Andie Rubrum, designer and manufacturer of Rubbies, a sportswear line with design offices and a factory in Williamsburg, said, "I love working in Brooklyn. The labor pool here is excellent, and I can get the space I need at a price I can afford."
Rubbies’ "glitzy, always trendy" line says Rubrum, includes some of the hottest styles and this season’s "it" fabric: corduroy. Keeping her garments simply shaped - A-lines for dresses, jumpers and tunic tops and body-conscious, bell-bottoms pants - allows Rubrum to focus on faux-luxury fabrications such as washable suede, synthetic leather and soft-touch, fuzzy acrylic knits. T-shirts with fur-trimmed sleeves, faux-leather appliqued flowers and plenty of lace provide the "glitz" factor.
Rubrum color coordinates each of her 150 shapes so that a corduroy jumper, printed in a lovely paisley print and colored in tones of lilac, denimy blues and soft reds can be worn with a lilac ribbed T-shirt, finished with small, red crocheted flowers near the cuffs; the same T-shirt could be paired with lilac bell-bottoms that sport a paisley motif, outlined in studs at the ankles.
Rubrum updates the frat-boy look with a palette of sophisticated neutrals in black, olive, tan and gray. Boys can mix baggy corduroy pants with loose-fit sweaters banded in wide charcoal and black stripes, or button-front shirts in coordinating neutral tones. Sizes start at infant and go up to 14.
Back to the ’60s
Partners Linda Brady and Jean Raveau-Violette named their children’s-wear company Tiki after their daughters Timoney and Markia. Brady and Raveau-Violette - she’s the designer; he manages the business - live and work in the same Boerum Hill building.
"We are here," said Raveau-Violette, "to be near our daughters’ schools, and we like being a part of the community." The team began selling their designs in Brooklyn flea markets. They now produce more than 7,000 pieces a year and ship their goods to about 50 stores nationwide.
Brady, a former women’s-wear designer, turned to creating girls’ clothing when she "got sick of black." You won’t find much black in her collection this fall. Like Rubrum, Brady prefers to design simple shapes and let her flair for color and pattern dominate.
Forty patterns - polka dots, tie-dye effects and batik-looks, all with a mod, ’60s flavor, are printed on stretch velvet that imparts a rich luminosity to the colors. Twenty solids coordinate with her easy-shaped print pieces in tones that are anything but sedate. A simple, hot-orange skirt, with a single ruffle at the bottom, is sprinkled with chartreuse, fuchsia and lime dots. The skirt is topped with a chartreuse T-shirt - its only flourish is a gather at the bust line. The Tiki collection fits sizes 2 to 6-X and retails for around $40 to $70.
"This year," said Vivian Cirillo, "if people had an occasion to celebrate, they did!" Cirillo, a Park Slope resident with a workroom in Windsor Terrace, owns and designs the Vivian Nicole line of better, special-occasion dresses and Christening wear.
Walking into Cirillo’s workroom is a little like floating in the sky. Rows of clothing racks hold white and pale pastel dresses, some with pearl covered bodices and others with delicate beading. The dresses’ puffy taffeta and tulle skirts float from the bodices like clouds.
This season’s dresses include a beautiful white creation, suitable for a communion or flower girl attire. The bottom half is covered in white sequins draped with sheer white netting. The effect is subtle - a glimmer of sparkle when the dress catches the light, not va-va-voom glamour. To cover chilly shoulders, Cirillo offers matching jackets or faux-fur capes.
Christening wear is sized from newborn up to 18 months and girls’ dresses fit sizes 4 to 14.
Park Slope designer Karen Brothers has found her niche in the luxury baby market. As founder and designer of Tatia Ponchos (Tatia is Brothers’ daughter), she has successfully marketed her colorful ponchos that are, says Brothers, "somewhere between clothes and a toy." Each poncho is hand-knit in happy primary tones or delicate pastels. For fall, Brothers offers a cashmere-and-mohair blend poncho. Baby fashion mavens love Brothers’ trademark, folksy knit animal and train appliques.
"Infants love the bright colors of my ponchos, and parents love them for their practicality," says Brothers. "They cover a baby and a baby Bjorn snuggly perfectly."
Tatia Ponchos are sized from newborn to big kid (approximately 8 years old) and retails for $42.
Tina Barry designed and manufactured the blue-eyed susan line of better children’s wear. She is a contributing editor on the www.jamesgirone.com Web site, which reports on the children’s wear industry, and she teaches at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan.
Rubbies, 480 Johnson Ave. at Porter
Avenue in Williamsburg, Third Floor. The Rubbies collection can
be found in Lester’s, 2411 Coney Island Ave.; and Klassy Kids,
9424 Avenue K. For more information, call (718) 821-0773 or e-mail
Tatia Ponchos can be found at Go Fish, 260 Fifth Ave. or at the Tatia Ponchos design room, 285 Fifth Ave. at Second Street. For more information, call (718) 637-6413 or e-mail tatiaponch
The Tiki collection is available through the Tiki Atelier, 267 Wyckoff St. at Nevins Street in Boerum Hill. For more information, call (718) 797-2677 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vivian Nicole, 1521 10th Ave. at 16th Street in Windsor Terrace. Vivian Nicole special-occasion dresses can be found in Lester’s, 2411 Coney Island Ave. and Swee’ Peas, 8416 Third Ave. For information, call (718) 832-8180.