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The room is filled to bursting with pleather jeans and faux fur coats, the lucky audience members with seats vying for space with their elbows.
It is like any other high-fashion catwalk show – but with one small difference. This is the first Global Kids Fashion Week, and here the threat of tantrums and inappropriate behaviour comes not from the usual bitchy fashion free shipping kids clothing crowd but from a pack of extravagantly styled toddlers. In the front row, mothers discreetly wrestle their uncontainable tots back into their ￡100-a-ticket seats just in time to see an army of beautiful children take to the runway.
“There is a huge market for kids’ fashion,” explains Alex Theophanous, one half of the online children’s store AlexandAlexa.com, who co-organised the inaugural event at London’s Freemason’s Hall. “The market is significantly bigger than ever before. We felt the time was right to take children’s fashion centre stage.”
The market for children’s clothes in Britain is estimated to be worth ￡6.5bn – worldwide the figure is more than 10 times that. It is little wonder that every luxury brand worth its salt is cashing in with mini-me lines.
At this event alone, the line-up includes Little Marc Jacobs, Junior Gaultier and Paul Smith Junior. “All key luxury labels have a children’s line now,” Theophanous adds. Over the course of a two-day event (both sold out, with proceeds going to the charity Kids Company), 30 designers are showcasing next season’s wares.
The “90s revival” attendees were informed there would be “a key thread through all the designers and collections and carefully curated looks [paying] tribute to a decade where colours were brighter, prints were bold and little details made a statement”.
The 500-strong crowd – the adult contingent at least – are desperate to get a first glimpse. Among them, in the front row, are Karen Tilly and her two-year-old daughter, Natalia. “Shopping for her is a bit of a hobby, actually a big hobby,” explains Karen, who says she wouldn’t think twice about spending as much on an outfit for her toddler as she would for herself.
Natalia’s outfit today, her mother explains, is a leopard-print jacket from Gap, gold metallic jeans “just from Baby K”, and patent knee-high Leila Kella boots. “She was wearing a Mona Lisa tunic and scarf and leopard-print bag,” Karen adds, picking up a trail of discarded items from the floor. So what is her favourite outfit of all? “Spiderman! I’m horrified.”