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January 7, 2019

What To Consider When Designing Children’s Clothing

By: Peter Gregory

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Kid’s clothing is one of the most exciting sectors of the fashion & apparel industry! 

There are some incredibly exciting children’s clothing designers out there, breaking new ground with fresh textiles, delicious colours and crazy features like dragon’s teeth and two-tone sequins.

But it takes more than great design and materials to get kid’s clothes out in front of customers at scale. To offer the very best product, you need to put yourself in the shoes of the buyer (the parents, not the children). A tired and cost-conscious mum or dad is going to have to wrap their little one up in your handiwork, so give them something reliable that they can get excited about!

We’ve spent some time talking to our existing kids clothing customers and we’ve come up with a shortlist of nine vital points to consider when designing clothes for children:

1 – Think Cost!

When you’re selling to adults, you are selling to a customer who (hopefully) isn’t going to change size or shape very much over the lifespan of your garment. The same can’t be said for kids, who literally grow non-stop (there are some really interesting charts on the RCPCH website).

The UK government doesn’t charge VAT on most young children’s clothes (see this gov.uk web page for more details). VAT rules help relieve some of the cost pressures felt by cash strapped parents, but it’s still a price-sensitive market. If you price a child-sized garment the same way you might price something for an adult, you’ll find it harder to win repeat business. Based on what we’ve seen over the years, the most successful children’s clothing designers are the ones whodeliver high-quality, fairly-priced clothing.

2 – Think Practicality!

Young children and babies don’t dress themselves — their parents do — so make sure your garments are easy to put on and take off.

Fat buttons and bright zippers might look great on a kid’s jacket, but a tired parent won’t thank you for putting style over substance. Try to imagine taking the garment off when the child is asleep or has had an ‘accident’. There’s a very good reason why baby costumes are equipped with popper fasteners at both the top and bottom ends!

3 – Think Safety! 

Parents quite rightly want kid’s clothing to be safe, so make sure your clothes are safe, and make it clear on your packaging, swing tag and labels! 

As a rule of thumb, if your clothes are made of commonly-used, non-flammable materials, you’re most of the way there on safety, but there are laws you have to comply with. We recently published an article covering the UK’s labelling laws which is a good starting point on your safety responsibilities as a children’s clothing manufacturer. 

Legal jargon can be a little intimidating for non-solicitors (just try reading the actual text of the Textile Products Regulations {2012}) but try not to stress. There are legal experts and safety testing companies out there who can help if you need it. 

4 – Think Wear & Tear! 

If you’ve ever designed workwear, you’ll probably make a great kid’s clothing designer! According to the NHS, under-fives need to run around for three hours a day (learn more here). That puts a lot of pressure on zones like elbows, trouser seats, waists and collars. Go for resilient, colour-fast fabrics wherever possible, and if you’ve got a choice to make between two seam stitches, choose the tougher one.

5 – Think Laundry! 

It’s a fact of life that kids are messy creatures. Everything a child wears is at risk from tomato sauce splodges, grass stains, gravy spillages and worse.

Try to make kid’s clothes out of colour-fast garments that will take a scoop of stain remover and still look vivid after multiple washes (think cotton, not rayon!) If your clothes look and feel great, and if they can take a daily wash and tumble dry, parents will notice!

6 – Think Growth! 

The little person wearing your garment isn’t going to be that little for long! Kids grow upwards and outwards at breathtaking speeds, so try to design for this. On the materials side, opt for elasticated waists and textiles that won’t shrink in the wash. On the design side, allow a looser fit than you would with an adult-sized garment. 

7 – Think Name Tapes!

Don’t let your carefully-designed clothing end up in a lost-and-found box! Whether you’re designing for nursery or school age, parents will appreciate it if you leave a few square inches of space for a name tape.

A standard woven name tape is either 8mm or 12mm high (the width of a name tape typically matches the owner’s name), and fits neatly on most hem lines. Printed iron-on labels and stickers are becoming more popular, and they go up to 18mm x 30mm or larger. Our friends at gbnametapes.co.uk know all about the most common name tape sizes – take a look at their website if you need more information!

8 – Think Hand-Me-Downs! 

Most of the children’s clothing you design won’t just be for one child. It will be worn by a child’s younger sibling, then that sibling’s younger cousin, then that cousin’s sibling, then a family friend and so on for years

This is good news, because it means you don’t need to ‘play to trends’ when you’re designing. If your designs are timeless, the clothes you make will stay in circulation for as long as (if not longer than) standard adult clothing. Opt for the most durable materials you can afford, and try to pick easy-to-recycle fabrics wherever possible.

9- Think World Domination!

The UK is a great proving ground for children’s clothing brands, and you can make good money in the domestic market … but your journey doesn’t have to stop at the borders! There is quite literally a whole world of opportunity out there for the best brands. 

Remember that different countries have different testing and labelling laws, and that you’ve got to factor in the cost of customs and shipping before entering into any new deals with overseas distributors. Dream big, work hard and you’ll have the world at your feet!

That’s it! We hope this list has helped you prepare for a few of the demands of what is a really fun and creative corner of our industry. If you have any questions, please get in touch!

– Pete

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