As Skinny Jeans Shrink to Baby Size, Parents Pay Up, Retailers Cheer, Everyone Else Worries What's Next
Children's clothing sales are up 5.3% year-to-date, over the same time last year, according to MasterCard Advisors' SpendingPulse, a unit of MasterCard Inc. that tracks sales by cash, check and credit card. Total apparel sales are up just 1.4%.
"People tend to put their kids first," says Mark Breitbard, executive vice president of GapKids and babyGap. "They'll pass on something for themselves to make sure their kids are still looked after." The company doesn't segment sales within its lines, but Mr. Breitbard says the kids' division "has maintained its brand health in a much more consistent manner" than the adult division.
One factor behind the company's skinny-jeans-for-kids strategy: The popularity of adult-styled kids' clothes after the debut of its kids and baby collaboration with Stella McCartney last November. It was originally intended as a one-time partnership, but the line was so popular that a second launched in March. Some of the pieces, such as a gray sweater dress, were miniature versions of Ms. McCartney's ready-to-wear line.
The mini-me mentality has trickled into Gap's other designs for kids and baby. On shelves now, shoppers will find motorcycle jackets and ankle boots. "People love trend take-downs," says Mr. Breitbard. "Fashion-right clothes are really adorable the smaller they get."
Translating a trend for the wee set isn't as easy as shrinking a
pattern. Gap's new product piggybacks off its adult counterpart, 1969 denim. The overall goal was to make the kids' denim look more like the adult product. The similarities: Gap lined the inside of the waistband with blue oxford-shirt-type material, added a blue rivet near the right front pocket and the same detailing on the back pockets.
Christina Lane of Deland, Fla. zips daughter Ava into a pair of Gap skinny jeans, which retail for $34.50. Ava has four pairs of skinny jeans. Molly Dempsey for The Wall Street Journal
There are a few differences. For example, the "top block"—the top half of the pant covering the area from the waist to about the thighs—of the baby version needs to allow room for a diaper, so it takes up an astonishing half the pant. Other Gap jeans feature inseam snaps for easier diaper changing, but not the skinny styles.
Old Navy, a lower-priced division of Gap, also takes care when designing skinny sizes for little boys and girls, says Michelle DeMartini, senior vice president of Old Navy kids and baby design and merchandising. "We sent our teams out to playgrounds, not in a stalking way, but just to kind of watch the consumer," she says. For skinny jeans, "we talked for a long time about how much stretch, what should that feel like?" she says. "Adults might want to forgo comfort for fashion, but children will not."