Designers focus on versatile and dependable styles to meet the demands of increasingly cost-conscious parents.
According to data pulled by Google from iQuanti, “spend less/save more” ranked among this year’s top 10 New Year’s resolution searches, with nearly 16 million hits—up 17.5 percent from 2016. Clearly, many consumers are looking to stretch their dollar this year, and children’s brands are in step with the trend, offering a bevy of reliable and versatile styles for Fall ’17. Think plenty of sneakers and short boots.
“Athleisure is shifting from being a trend to an everyday part of our lives and how we dress,” says Lucy Thornley, vice president of women’s and kids’ product at Crocs. “With this in mind, fresh styling, comfort, versatility and ease will be prominent factors when consumers are making a purchase.”
Jenevieve Froncek, footwear designer at Pediped, says kids are increasingly sporting high-tops as the new, more casual boot. “I just don’t think people dress up as much as they used to, so there’s not as much of a need for those beautiful, tall leather boots,” she explains. “People are a little more casual now, so mom wants something that can be warm and functional [for her little ones].” The elongated “hybrid” sneaker is expected to run the style gamut for fall, dipping its toe into several microtrends from Western to celestial spaces.
Arielle Suberi, senior designer for Steve Madden Kids, agrees the sneaker will continue to be a huge fashion statement this fall.
“The sneaker is particularly important in the buy-now-wear-now spirit of back-to-school,” she notes. “You’ll be seeing it all—lots of patches, embroidery, charms and rhinestones across the biggest silhouette of the season.”
For Megan Linke, founder of Lili Collection, social media and blogger influencers are also to credit for the growing sneaker movement that is now trickling down to children’s fashion. “I feel like every blogger in the fashion industry is wearing a sneaker,” she says. “Whether it’s Nike or a more generic brand, we are seeing more embellishments to the sneaker across the board.”
According to Tony Castano, Vida Kids’ vice president of design and development, the warmer winters have also helped the shift away from tall boot silhouettes to the shorter shaft of the Chelsea, which exploded last year in womenswear and is now reaching down into kids’.
“We’re definitely seeing shorter shaft heights than in the past,” agrees Brandy McCarty, global brand sales and strategy manager for Khombu. “Anything that could have more functionality is what’s selling,” he adds. “Customers don’t want to be restricted to outdoors, indoors, dress up or dress down. They want more opportunities in one shoe.”
From glittering cowboy boots to hybrid sneaker interpretations, a Western aesthetic gallops across a range of silhouettes this fall. But it’s short of a full gallop, so to speak.
“The Western-themed styles are not necessarily straight-up cowboy,” explains Sammy Esquenazi, owner of Josmo Shoes. “We have focused a lot on ornaments and trims, including studs, eyelets, faux fur, tassels and fringe.”
According to Heather Cohen, design director at Mia Kids, the most consistently popular style over the past three years has been the Western boot. “We just update [from season to season] as the girls want to wear it with their shorts all the way through the fall with their jeans.”
Shades of red and blue run deep in many kids’ collections this season. “Colors usually follow politics,” says Lisa Cronin-Arida, vice president of design for Synclaire Brands. “This year was an election year so we saw a lot of Bordeaux and navy.”
It’s not just the saturated hues, though, being influenced by politics—metallic accents are also tied into Cronin-Arida’s theory. “Whenever a Republican is in office, gold becomes very big—we saw a lot of gold this season,” she says. “Silver and pewter also have made a strong showing this fall.”
Fur, real or faux, is the must-have embellishment of winter couture. Gucci, a few seasons back, ushered in the crazy hair trend with its Princetown slippers, and now kids’ designers are letting their hair down in the form of fluffy trims and pompoms. The playfulness of fur can also be seen in the colorways, with some designers rocking cobalt blue wool or pink-dyed Sherpa.
Denise LeMons, senior designer for Bearpaw, says the short boot trend has been a great way to showcase plush faux fur in its collection. “One of our top-selling styles is the Boo, a short little bootie with long curly lamb in fun colors,” she says. “We like to add details, like pompom accents or knit shafts, that make a traditionally cozy boot really stand out.”
Velvet just may be the material of the season. The posh fabric shows up across a range of silhouettes and collections.
“We are definitely paying a lot more attention to luxurious materials,” says Froncek of Pediped. “I’ve been seeing the velvet trend everywhere from adults down to kids, so I figured it was a good one to jump on.”
For Fall ’17, Pediped released baby styles in velvet and a youth story in fur. “People want to look good, but be warm—a perfect demand for velvet and fur,” Froncek says.
Designers note subdued hues as the most popular in crushed velvet, spanning soft blues, dusty pinks and tranquil plums. Not to mention classic black velvet which, Froncek says, is, “Forever a holiday staple.”
The grunge aesthetic that returned for an encore performance in adult fashion last year is making its presence felt in children’s with patchwork, metal hardware, embroidery and kitschy character details.
“The return of ’90s styling and rebellious attitude have really given children a way to express themselves and be slightly rebellious in a fun way,” says Chris Askins, brand manager at Esquire Footwear. “This allows kids to personalize their style with patches and metal accents while giving them a reason to push their limits.” Askins sees an overall trend of bold styling that isn’t afraid to “break the rules,” spanning angst-filled gunmetal studs and patent leather to bright stitching and zipper detailing.
Designers have looked into the heavens for inspiration this fall. Think star motifs, metallics, glitter (i.e. space dust), LED lights and other out-of-this-world influences. Modeled after Fendi’s whimsy characters of last year, look out for celestial pals such as aliens and robots popping up in the form of patchwork, embroideries or printed graphics.
“Stars are a must,” stresses Cohen of Mia Kids. “We’re calling it superstar. Whether it’s a sneaker, boot or jacket, stars are huge this season.”
According to Heather Dady, designer for Western Chief Kids, recognizing the evolution of metallic is imperative. “For fall, they are really taking on a luminescent futuristic look,” she says. “It creates a hard-soft feeling, which is really interesting.” Western Chief is capitalizing on this trend with a collection of new metallic glitter rain boots. “At a glance, it just looks like metallic silver but when you really pop a light directly at it, you get this incredible explosion of light bouncing back.” Overall, Dady says to expect an overall cooler colorway with charcoal and pewter taking the lead.