OK, there’s a lot to unpack here. Instagram would probably be the most significant game-changing variable at play. With accounts dedicated to following North West or Penelope Disick’s every move (and every outfit), it’s easy to glean what’s “cool.” Such is the case every time a child makes a guest appearance on his/her famous parent’s Instagram—most notably, whenever Beyoncé gives us (and her other 108 million followers) a glimpse at Blue Ivy. There’s also Gwen Stefani’s kids Zuma and Kingston, Ciara’s Future Jr., and Fergie’s Axl.
“You have this accessibility you didn’t have before to go out and get the same thing—or something similar—for your own kids,” notes Dempsey, calling out children who are also influencers because of their parents. She points to twins Mila and Emma from Over Our Wall as one such example. “They have videos that go viral in seconds,” she continues. “They’re mini influencers based on their parents’ business and Instagram following.”
For Rachel Blumenthal, the founder of Rockets of Awesome (the genius kids’ clothing subscription service that delivers a seasonal box of eight on-trend items based on a style profile you fill out online, but you pay only for what you keep), this shift in childrenswear can be traced back to the street style boom 10 years ago.
“It started with New York Fashion Week, where you saw little style stars, like Alexander Wang’s niece Aila or the editors’ children, and they were super sophisticated,” Blumenthal says. “Now, with social, particularly Instagram, you’re just seeing more of it and it’s giving kids a platform to also show off their style and personality. It’s changing how parents are thinking about dressing their kids—it’s more like mini-mes, it’s more aligned with fashion trends.”
Major movements, both in fashion and culturally, have had an influence as well, like the popularity of streetwear (a silver metallic bomber jacket remains as one of Rockets of Awesome’s most iconic, best-selling items), the rise of athleisure, and the acceptance of gender fluidity (for Boomdash’s holiday campaign, the team dressed a girl in a suit), and as a result, gender-neutral clothing.
The approach to dressing also mirrors how millennials dress themselves: high-low (designer with fast-fashion), along with a mix of brands. And millennial parents, Dempsey notes, are also the type to respect kids’ opinions and wishes: “Kids are more involved than they have ever been before in how they’re dressed.”
“You’re seeing more of a freedom of expression, a freedom to try things,” Blumenthal adds. “What you’re seeing is that kids are dressing cooler and they’re looking to adults, to celebrities. And it’s because of pop culture; it’s become the norm now.”
So how does all of this affect the cost of childrenswear? Dempsey believes millennial parents are more willing to spend money for designs they want for their child, which might drive up prices. Blumenthal agrees: “It’s opened up an appetite for expensive brands, but that’s for a very specific customer, because at the end of the day, it’s going to be short-lived—they’ll wear it for a max of three months because they’ll either outgrow it or destroy it. They’re kids.”