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No kidding! Kidswear is big biz

Maitreyee Handique | July 30, 2003

Forget the fashion for grown-ups, uneven skirt lines, weird hairdos and avant garde winter forecasts. The action is heating up in the premium children's wear segment that keeps in touch with international trends.

It is estimated that branded kidswear is a Rs 350 crore (Rs 3.5 billion) market growing between 15 and 20 per cent every year.

This season's style statement constitutes dressing up with coordinated accessories where everything from the bag to hair clip to the key chain is colour coordinated.

"It's really about lifestyle," says Abhinash Goyal, chief executive officer of the Rs 34 crore (Rs 340 million) Freelook Ltd that owns the Freelook Junior Brand.

"While in the West, coordinated fashion is a way of life, in India it is taking off now. Today, you can't sell an individual garment. Coordinated accessory is part of the story," he adds.

Today, accessories like leather bags, hair bands, caps, wallets and key chains are a must with an ensemble. Small wonder that Delhi-based retail store Nextt has launched matching polka-dotted Nextt Kids red handbags, red shoes and vanilla pink belts and shoes to match pink party wear.

Delhi-based kidswear store Ashok's promises to stack cowboy hats, while Gini & Jony plans to sell watches, shoes and sunglasses under its brand name. Its exclusive stores already sell bags, belts, wallets and hair bands.

The price tags on the dresses and accessories are pretty extravagant: a T-shirt could cost Rs 295 and a complete outfit about Rs 2,000.

Says Vikram Bahri of Li'l Tomatoes, "Children wear focuses on durability and very high quality cotton is used. That's the reason they seem to be expensive."

Often, children wish to copy ensembles shown on fashion channels like FTV and Trendz.

"Kids fashion is a miniature version of what adults wear. Children as young as two years, know exactly what they want even before they enter the shop," observes Deepika Goyal owner of Ashok's.

Goyal launched her own kids' label Popcorn which offers designer dresses like spaghetti tops and matching capris.

While Popcorn may be inspired by FTV, the Rs 60 crore (Rs 600 million) Gini & Jony Apparels Ltd, offers Wild Safari, Graffiti Collection and Western Outlaw themes. Its regional manager (north) Puneet Tripathi, says, "Our theme collections proved to be an instant hit."

Even as companies get busy shaping up this year's winter collection, designers offer a sneak preview: Italian cuts, slim silhouettes, short jackets, and bleached crystal-studded denims are in. And the average prices for the winter range will be between Rs 800 and Rs 2,000.

Companies are also cashing in on the popularity of cartoon characters. Britain-based Woolworths has tied up with Mahindra Intertrade Ltd to introduce the Ladybird range of products and will open stores in Mumbai and Delhi.

While Personality Ltd owns the licence for Disney products for age 4 to 14 years, Bangalore's Infinum Retail Marketing has got the licence for products for kids up to three years.

Infinum has already launched a range of denim kurtis with cartoon characters. The company plans to open exclusive stores in Delhi and Bangalore and launch its own brand in September.

Gini & Jony plans to add 25 new stores to its existing 21. The Rs 5 crore (Rs 50 million) Li'l Tomatoes Clothing Ltd will enter Punjab. Currently, it has shops in Delhi, Dehradun, Jaipur and Agra.

Romano Apparels, which own the Little Kangaroos brand retails via 90 stores. "In two year, we will set up our exclusive stores," says the company's director Arun Lalwani.

Finally, as companies expand and capture marketshare, the kids wear brand business is all about wearing attitude on your sleeve.



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