A bestseller in the designer childrenswear space, Drapers speaks to the brand about its plans for autumn 20 and beyond.
Paris in winter: amid a day of drizzle, chill and travel chaos as a result of ongoing general strikes, Drapers visits luxury brand Kenzo’s headquarters, nestled within an opulent courtyard near the Louvre.
The brand gave us a rare insight into its plans for expansion, and a first look at its vibrant, eclectic and internationally inspired autumn 20 kidswear collection.
Since 2006, Kenzo – which is owned by luxury conglomerate LVMH – has produced its children’s clothing line through a licence partnership with French kidswear specialist Kidiliz Group.
Luxury kidswear is booming. Retail analytics company Edited estimated that the sector made up 11% of all kidswear in 2018, up from 4% in 2016, Kenzo has become a favourite of designer childrenswear specialists.
The brand’s products for newborns to age 16 are stocked by more than 900 stores internationally, of which the 55 in the UK include Harrods, Selfridges, Childrensalon and north-west independent store Kids Cavern. The average wholesale price is £36.
Maud Rascle, designer brands managing director at Kidiliz, credits the increasing popularity of luxury children’s clothing in part to more experimental, unique collections from designer brands, and to growing demand for individuality from shopping parents.
“When a lot of designer brands started in the early 2000s, kids’ lines were pure ‘mini-me’ [direct copies of the adult lines].
“Now everyone is proposing a real legitimate collection for the kids. Kids’ collections are very interesting and very creative now,” she says.
“Everywhere in the world now parents are more attentive to the way their kids are dressed – not as a way to show off, but to reflect their way of life, their values and also to reflect their kids’ personalities.”
Rascle explains that creativity, individuality and authenticity are the cornerstones of Kenzo’s kidswear offer. While there are “thematic synergies” between its children’s ranges and the main collection – both autumn 20 collections are based on the idea of “exploration” ,and some prints and shapes reference the adult line – Rascle stresses that kidswear is independent.
“The idea is really to propose an authentic collection for the kids. To create its own universe, which is part of the brand’s universe. We are expressing the Kenzo brand, but as a kidswear line.”
The autumn 20 collections for boys and girls feature four “destinations”: Lima in Peru, Las Vegas and the Ventura Mountains in the US, and Tokyo, Japan. Each location has a distinct set of eye-catching prints inspired by nature and featuring Kenzo’s signature graphics of the tiger and elephant.
“The collection is really about exploration, and we mix trendy outdoor inspirations and a very urban wardrobe while also expressing the true DNA of the Kenzo heritage: with bright colours, striking patterns and eye-catching visuals,” says Rascle.
She highlights a jumper with a bold tiger print and a pleated skirt as key pieces in the girls’ collection, and adds that outerwear – particularly puffer jackets – are a consistent standout style, as they are in adults.
Danny Shelvey, founder of Kids Cavern, reports that Kenzo outerwear and graphic T-shirts are particularly popular. He says the brand is a bestseller with his customers, thanks to its price points.
Boys’ partywear and a complete sportswear range are being introduced for the first time for autumn 20. A girls’ leopard print ski suit in vibrant pink and orange is a standout item for the season.
Rascle stresses the technical attributes of the collection: the ski-wear includes bonded zips and ski skirts to keep out snow. Both partywear and sportswear were initially introduced as capsules, and Rascle says the plans to test new categories in the same way: initial capsule offerings, extending into permanent collections if they are successful. Footwear and accessories are areas that are ripe for development, she adds.
Category expansion is not the only area that the Kenzo kidswear brand is growing, however.
Kenzo will not disclose international market share and the wholesale/direct sales split, but says it wants to ramp up direct-to-consumer operations globally, and focus on expanding its international mono-brand kidswear store portfolio.
The brand opened its first flagship mono-brand kidswear store in Hong Kong in September 2018. It has two others inin Saudi Arabia – all are run via a mix of franchise partners and licensing agreements. The first US mono-brand flagship is due to open in Miami next month.
Although there is no specific target for store numbers, building up flagships in key cities globally is a priority. Rascle says that while wholesale forms the core of the business, having own stores is central to future growth.
“Having your own retail network is a way to totally express the brand,” she says. “You can express your global vision in terms of product but also in terms of the experience customers have in the boutique.”
The demand for luxury kidswear shows no sign of waning, and in an age focusing on expressing individuality Kenzo and Kidiliz’s partnership offers a quirky, creative and authentic take on the luxury label’s DNA.
However, as more and more luxury houses seek to venture into kidswear, it will have to work hard to retain the uniquely creative and playful spirit that make its eclectic collections such a hit with shoppers.