“A fashion week for kids—really?” That’s how I reacted when I first heard about the event. Was that really supposed to be a serious fashion industry event? I mean, really!? Would anyone take it seriously? Why a fashion week for kids? Wasn’t that kind of too eager, a “bit too much”?
There was only one way to find out, by checking it out myself. So last week I decided to attend a few shows at India Kids Fashion Week in suburban Mumbai.
One: Indian designers are warming up to kidswear
The designer line-up at India Kids Fashion Week was somewhat impressive. There were some big names on the schedule- Rocky S, Nishka Lulla, Payal Singhal and Mineral by Priyadarshini Rao, among others. So this was an event that at least some designers were taking seriously, which was a good sign. But there were also names I hadn’t heard of, but that’s not always a bad thing. There were also some non-fashion brands like Hotwheels who participated.
To be fair to the organisers (Craftworld Events), kidswear is quite a big deal internationally. Most large fashion houses, from high street to high fashion, have a separate line for kids- Gap, Zara, Burberry, Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, Gucci, Ralph Lauren… you get the drift. So why should the Indian designers be left behind?
Two: Fashion choices for kids have grown recently
Besides the brands you see in the mall (such as Gini & Jony and Lilliput) and some others, there wasn’t too much happening in the Indian kidswear space. There were a few new entrants in the past three to four years, like Tommy Hilfiger and Zara (both with kidswear).
But even so, most clothes for children, such as jeans, tees, frocks, were mostly found in department stores (like Westside or Central). There was also Kidology which launched in 2010, that retails high quality fashion ready-to-wear kids’ and maternity clothing.
I met Neha Sachar Mittal of Kidology, who spoke about the boom in the kidswear market in India (over 20% in the past decade) and the need for clothes specifically meant for Indian kids (like for weddings and other occasions).
Three: What India Kids fashion week is really about
Simply put, India Kids Fashion Week is an event to sell clothes, accessories and even toys for kids. It’s not really an event for kids per se, though kids do participate as models and designers (designer Prachi Badve is 13 years old).
The event is for the industry—so that designers get a potential new market, and customers (parents/ kids), buyers (such as department and multi-brand stores) get good clothes for kids to get new customers and higher sales. So it’s like any other fashion week, but with a very specific focus.
Four: It was a fun event for and by the kids
I saw dozens of kids walking the ramp at India Kids Fashion Week. In the shows that I attended, I was glad that none of them were sexualised or objectified in any way. Their clothes were mostly stylish, and they had applied some makeup.
The PR girl Akshatha explained that the makeup was safe and edible because kids like to put everything in their mouth. Each kid did only one show, and there was a doctor on call as well. During the model auditions, the focus was on the kids’ confidence more than anything else. Whether this translates into kids aspiring to be models is a question mark, but I do know that the kids who walked the ramp got professional training and gained confidence like in no other way.
Five: There are some awesome fashion options for kids
Some of the designers came up with fabulous clothes for kids. Rocky S created a black-and-white-themed collection for them, and the Kidology show with clothes by X, Y and Z was a real treat to watch. Seeing the cute hats, accessories and vibrant prints for girls, I wished I was a kid again. 😉
Six: Kids get to choose!
Also, let’s not forget that Indian kids, especially in the metros and larger towns influence purchase decisions to a large extent. There were several kids watching the shows at fashion week, and they may form opinions on what they like and what they don’t, so they could end up playing a slightly greater role in what they wear.
Seven: It may be too early to talk about the business impact
For a first-time event of such scale, India Kids Fashion Week generated decent amount of interest in the local and national media. This was partly to do with the handful of well-known names on the ramp, such as Sushmita Sen.
Success will largely depend on the buyer-designer interactions and sales (Shoppers Stop was one of the buyers at the event), uptake of sponsors in the next season and public and media interest. It’s too early to say what will happen the next season, but one key takeaway from the event is that small can be big. Perhaps bigger than expected.