Sorry, Gymboree--infants and toddlers are now rocking stylish clothing and products that reflect the hip tastes of their parents. According to the NPD Group, the children's clothing market totaled $29 billion in 2004 in the U.S., and major designers are adding munchkin lines to their collections that have trend-seeking parents going gaga goo-goo.
Entrepreneurs, too, are catering to design-conscious parents. Edina Sultanik Silver, co-founder of Brand P!mps $ Media Wh*res, a New York City youth market trend consultancy and fashion showroom, says, "New parents' mind-sets are a lot edgier than they used to be. Once [hip kids' clothing] becomes more widely available, more people are going to buy it."
Many of these businesses are born of necessity. When friends and extended family of Craig Melchiano, 33, and Robert Kissinger, 32, began families of their own, the tattooed, punk and hard-rock circle found "there really wasn't anything out there that spoke to them," says Kissinger. The two friends, both with creative backgrounds, decided to create a culture all their own with San Francisco-based Infantile in 2004. The cotton shirts for infants and toddlers are designed by respected artists, illustrators and tattoo artists and sell for $20 to $25 each. One bestseller is a black tee with chunky gold chains silk-screened around the neck. Projected 2005 sales are in the mid-six figures.
Daniel Kron, 50, and his wife, Geane Brito, 36, also rebelled against boring clothing for kids. They opened Miami Beach, Florida, modern design store Genius Jones in 2003, selling baby and toddler clothes, furniture and more. Kron believes parents who've waited longer to have kids make for loyal customers with a more rooted sense of style and more money to spend. The couple opts to sell clothing based on great design rather than designer labels. It seems to be working--2005 sales are projected at $2 million.
Newborns through kids up to age 12 can find upscale attire and hip accessories at Pumpkin in San Francisco. Since opening in 2003, Pumpkin has seen amazing growth--owner Alanna Klein plans to open a second location in the Bay Area and projects sales of more than $600,000 for 2005. Klein, 35, carries Diesel and Juicy Couture along with other American and European brands. She's found great success by direct-mailing and calling customers when a particular piece comes in. "High-end customers," says Klein, "know what they like."