'Mini-me' dressing drives surge in fashion brands making kids' clothes

Kirsten King with daughters Charlie (left) aged 7 and Willow aged 5.
Kirsten King with daughters Charlie (left) aged 7 and Willow aged 5. Photo: James Alcock

Kirsten King doesn't consciously dress her two daughters similarly to her but somehow, it just happens.

"I often look at the girls and we are all in the same colours. I think as a mum you are drawn to what you like and then you subconsciously purchase a similar thing for your children," says Ms King, who runs a pilates studio in Sydney's eastern suburbs.

Adult fashion brands are cashing in on the "mini-me" dressing trend, as well as growth in the kidswear market, by expanding into children's clothes.

Pilates teacher Kirsten King with her daughters Charlie (left) and Willow in matching Running Bare outfits.
Pilates teacher Kirsten King with her daughters Charlie (left) and Willow in matching Running Bare outfits. Photo: James Alcock

Building on the success of brands including Zimmermann and Country Road in kidswear, active wear brand Running Bare has just launched RB Girl, a capsule collection priced from $45 to $60, while denim brand One Teaspoon is launching its first kids' range this week.

One Teaspoon founder Jamie Blakey said a lot of children's denim "hasn’t been updated since forever, which blows my mind. They are still taking the same approach … there were no looser, slouchier fits for girls and they were generally just awful."

Blakey said it was important for One Teaspoon, whose cheeky denim shorts have a cult following among women, to ensure its children's range wasn't too revealing.

"It’s a fine line. You need to keep it nice because they’re kids but you don’t want to 'kiddy' it up too much," she said. "A lot of young girls love the tight shorts but we don’t do that. Everything is a bit oversized."

Parenting and relationship expert Dr Karen Phillip said the "mummy and me" trend is fine "as long as the clothing is age-appropriate and the mummy is not attempting to have her child look an older mature version of themselves".

"Most kids hate dressing like their parent once they [reach] about eight years old. At this age they start developing a keener sense of identity and a voice to vocalise their desire for non-compliance," she said.

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As children have greater access to social media, they are playing a more active role in their clothing purchases, says Kim Do, senior analyst for IBISWorld.

Latest reports show the kidswear market is growing at 2.9 per cent annually, which makes it an attractive opportunity for retailers. In comparison, women's fashion retail revenues are falling by 1.3 per cent.

Bobbsey twins ... Beyonce and daughter Blue Ivy.
Bobbsey twins ... Beyonce and daughter Blue Ivy. Photo: Supplied

Ms Do said a surge in the birthrate in 2004-2010 meant these children are now aged eight to 14 years, which may also be positively impacting kidswear sales.

"Social media influences their style and clothing choices more than previous generations," Ms Do said.

She said the collapse of specialised children's retailer Pumpkin Patch in 2016 (it has since been resurrected as an online business) would not discourage new entrants from the market and was a reflection of changing shopping behaviours.

The new entrants "target parents who want convenience – say a mother who is shopping for herself and picks up something for the kids rather than going out of her way to a store that only sells kids’ clothing", she said.

Convenience is a big selling point for The Iconic, which launched a childrenswear site this month with 80 brands.

Its chief category officer, Mareile Osthus, said early trends include "glittery items, unicorns, we’re selling a lot of colour".

"People buy more items for kids at the same time. They buy in chunks, kids get dirty or break things – they like bundling offers," she said.

Ms Osthus said The Iconic will expand its range of "mini-me" clothes, which is a huge social media and celebrity trend driven by everyone from Beyonce to designer and WAG Terry Biviano, who regularly dresses her daughter Azura, 4, in outfits that match her own.

When it comes to price, Blakey said the lower profit margins on kidswear is the main reason One Teaspoon is holding off wholesaling its new range for now.

"Australia’s kids’ boutique market is such a tight market and with margins, a kids’ size 4 pair of shorts costs the same to make as a women’s pair," she said.

Still, with some brands charging hundreds of dollars for the children's equivalent of the adult garment, she encouraged parents to find pieces that can be passed down multiple times.

"I still have pieces I bought for my son, who’s 13," she said. "All three [of my] kids have worn them and I am passing on to my friends. I like there’s longevity in these pieces."

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