Peace and love.
That’s the message children’s wear designers hope their spring collections will reflect. Whether it’s tie-dyed infant wear, toddlers in sleek halter dresses or juniors in the popular peasant style, the ’60s and ’70s, which have influenced adult wear for several seasons, make a big impact on children’s designs this spring.
Designers who exhibited their collections at children’s wear trade shows, and in showrooms in New York City, appear to be of two minds when styling for girls. One camp interprets the period romantically with a preference for multi-tiered skirts, puckered gauze blouses and embroidery, while the other travels the modern route, employing sleek shapes as a canvas for bright stripes or astonishing florals.
For boys, tie-dyeing T-shirts is as far as designers dipped into ’60s and ’70s nostalgia. Laid-back athletic looks with large T-shirts printed with baseballs or sports cars are popular. The patriotic red, white and blue color trio remains a designer favorite. Pairing tees with cargo pants in tan, khaki or relaxed-fit, washed denim was one look seen repeatedly.
While parents across the country buy up the latest trends, Brooklyn parents shop to a different beat. Proprietors of some of the better children’s wear shops told GO Brooklyn that their clients looked for simple-shaped, comfortable clothing without the fussy layers and flounces. A bright or offbeat color and an interesting graphic adds to a garment’s appeal.
As far as the recession goes, Bridget Williams, owner of Fort Greene’s Hot Toddie, said parents are spending $100 and up for a girl’s dress and want accessories to match. Aimee Kelley, manager of Park Slope’s baby bird, concurs, citing $100, sometimes a bit higher, as the price parents will pay for a holiday outfit.
Bird, a Seventh Avenue women’s boutique that opened in 1999, instantly developed a following of Park Slope women who look for hip designer clothing with a casual feel. Shortly into the store’s happy marriage to the community, bird hatched baby bird, a children’s wear boutique with a similar aesthetic. The shop, nesting next door to its mother, carries a selection of European and domestic designers. Children visiting the airy boutique can peruse the eye-level fish tank, complete with tropical fish and a miniature shark, while their parents browse the upscale lines.
According to Kelley, there is little resistance to higher price points for a specialty garment. For Passover and Easter, parents are looking for "simple, clean designs without a lot of appliques or frills." Stripes and either old-fashioned florals or hip, ’60s-inspired florals look fresh for dress wear.
Baby bird stocks the designs of several Brooklyn-based designers. One of the store’s popular labels is Eliza Gran. Gran, a Flatbush resident, describes her eight-piece collection as "a reflection of the clothing I loved when I was growing up in the ’70s."
Each halter top, A-line halter dress, short caftan with matching panties or petal pushers is reminiscent of early ’70s fashions. Gran keeps her shapes clean so that the reproductions of ’70s-style patterns can shine. Sizes for an Eliza Gran design are 2 to 6 and retail for $50 to $60.
For holiday wear for boys, parents are choosing casual looks.
"Funky T-shirts with shorts are selling well," said Kelley. Baby bird carries the designs of two Brooklyn designers: Raeburn Ink and Sandwiches by Matt Walker. Jen Cooke, a photo researcher at the Museum of Natural History, designs silk-screened onesies and T-shirts for her Raeburn Ink line that reflect her interest in nature. Each shirt is hand-silk screened with bright orange, blue or green designs motifs that resemble cell matter, topographical map details and antiquated European currency such as the lire. Sizes fit 6 months to 4 years and retail for $25-$32. Cooke’s line of adult-sized garments with similar patterns are sold at bird for $50-$150.
Sandwiches by Matt Walker, a T-shirt collection, sports fanciful line drawings of animals. "Hamster Ball" features hamsters under a clear plastic globe. "The Hug" illustrates an affectionate bear and monkey, and "Monkey on a Bike" is just that. Each smoky-toned blue or orange T-shirt is sized to fit newborn up to 6 years and retails for $20-$30.
Co-owners of the 18-month-old shop Castor & Pollux, Anne-Catherine Luke and Kerrilynn Hunt, mentioned Gran’s line and the Helen James collection of hot pink-and-orange leather booties ($45) for infants as two of the store’s important collections. Located on Sixth Avenue in Park Slope, the boutique stocks an eclectic mix of clothing and giftware.
Bridget Williams, owner of the children’s wear boutique Hot Toddie, had a hunch. Williams noticed an influx of affluent couples with infants to her Fort Greene neighborhood. Since opening in Fort Greene last September, Williams’ boutique has attracted customers looking for fashion-forward collections. "My customer will spend up to $140 for a special girl’s dress and around $110 for a boy’s outfit," she said. "If they can buy all the extras - tights, hat, shoes, jewelry to complete the ensemble - they’re happy."
For spring, Williams’ clientele favors the whimsical styling of New York manufacturer Halabaloo, citing the company’s cream-colored, quilted, cotton sheath dress with a hand-appliqued girl sitting under a palm tree as a popular holiday seller ($126, fits sizes 2 to 6X). For infants, Bu and the Duck, a SoHo-based manufacturer, supplies the store with vintage-inspired dresses. Each dress - in cocoa, beige or cinnamon - features a hand-crocheted top and a long, silky skirt. A matching crocheted cardigan finishes the look ($138 for three-piece set).
Parents are choosing either an old-fashioned dress-up look or rugged, athletic coordinates for boys. On the old-fashioned side, Marie Chantal, another New York-based designer, has styled a fully lined, blue-and-white cotton set with a shirt that buttons onto shorts keeping the infant neat and camera ready. Sized for infants up to 6X ($122). City Threads, a California company, adds a touch of Brooklyn pride to Williams’ shop. The company’s soft tanks and hooded sweatshirts, in maroon and olive, are embroidered with the word "Brooklyn" and "they last forever," said Williams. (Tank $30, sweatshirt $50 in infant sizes up to 6.)
For "tweens," approximately 8 to 13 years, Williams carries the Tiki line. Tiki’s designer, Linda Brady, along with her husband and business partner, Jean Raveau-Violette, offers bright, body-conscience dresses, T-shirts and skirts in spun jersey. For spring, Brady uses florals, abstracts, paisleys and this season’s hottest print: the patchwork.
"I have hot pink, purple, blue, green, orange and every color you want but black," Brady said with a laugh, as she used enough black in her former job as a women’s wear designer to last a lifetime. In addition to Hot Toddie, Brady and Raveau-Violette sell their collection throughout the United States and from their atelier at 267 Wyckoff St.
Children’s fashions this season reference an era when people flashed the peace sign and "love ins" were commonplace. Whether designers followed a natural evolution when creating their collections or acted on a bit of prescience is anyone’s guess, but their hippie-heavy collections seem especially apt at this moment.
Tina Barry teaches at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan.
baby bird (428 Seventh Ave. at 14th Street in Park Slope)
accepts Visa, MasterCard and American Express. For information,
call (718) 788-4506.
Castor & Pollux (67 1/2 Sixth Ave. at Flatbush Avenue in Park Slope) accepts Visa, MasterCard and American Express. For information, call (718) 398-4141.
Hot Toddie (741 Fulton St. at South Portland Avenue in Fort Greene) accepts Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Diners Club. For information, call (718) 858-7292.
Tiki Atelier (267 Wyckoff St. at Nevins Street in Gowanus) accepts cash only. For information, call (718) 797-2677.