Spring Awakening

Kids’ footwear designers take a tip from Mother Nature, with a vibrant palette of hues, a barrage of playful prints and a lineup of go-anywhere styles.

As the world wakes up from a long winter’s nap and springs to life with color and light, kids’ footwear designers take a tip from Mother Nature, with a vibrant palette of hues, a barrage of playful prints and a lineup of go-anywhere styles.

To spot top trends, look to adult collections, says Beth Clifton, a buyer for online childrenswear retailer AlexandAlexa, noting that Spring ’16 styles offer lots of opportunities for “mini me” ensembles. And sneakers are still going strong; Clifton points out that easy-to-wear slip-ons in particular are not only trend-right, but great for kids on the go.

After exploring footwear trade shows and talking to children’s fashion experts, we’ve unearthed the trends that will put a spring in your step—or at least, your Spring ’16 assortment.

High Achievers

With sneakers accounting for the majority of children’s online footwear sales in the last year according to data from the NPD Group, expect them to stay strong for Spring ’16. Sharon Blumberg of children’s brand Chooze notes that the high-top silhouette in particular has been hot in the European market and is poised to hit it big stateside in the coming season, offering that it adds “a creative edge to any outfit,” from leggings to shorts to dresses. Whether treated with playful mismatched prints or perforated leather, high-tops are comfortable and versatile with just the right amount of throwback cool.

Feeling Festive

The popularity of music festivals has forged a whole new category in fashion—in fact, this year, H&M teamed up with Coachella to offer a concert-ready collection that was heavy on crochet and tribal prints. Similarly, far-out fringe, bright embroidery and globally inspired boho patterns strike the right note in warm-weather kids’ footwear. Earthy, organic-looking materials and pops of rainbow-bright hues are made for endless summer adventures, even if little ones won’t be standing front row at Bonnaroo.

Good Jeans

As American as apple pie, denim is a wardrobe staple for a reason, and in Spring ’16 it’s making its way onto footwear. In a range of washes, this timeless textile will pop up on everything from casual shoes to special occasion styles. Nicole Yee, childrenswear editor at style forecasting site Fashion Snoops, says to keep an eye out for interesting textural treatments like embroidery inspired by the traditional Japanese art of sashiko, which offers extra visual interest.

Do or Dye

Though best known for being popular among hippies of the late 1960s, tie-dye has ancient roots around the world (including Japanese shibori and Indonesian ikat). Last year, designers like Michael Kors and Alexander Wang mined the swinging style for their resort collections. Whether in sun-bleached pastels or a psychedelic riot of brights, the modern iteration of this trippy treatment adds fun, crafty flair to casual sneakers. It’s a colorful, kid-friendly way to try on the retro trend that’s showing no sign of slowing down.

Water Babies

Children’s designers take a deep dive in Spring ‘16 with all-over patterns inspired by ocean life, resulting in a seafaring theme that’s just right for beach or pool days. Vans’ digital shark print was designed to look as realistic as possible, so it’s just ferocious enough for the shark-obsessed, explains Maddison Ek, product line manager for Vans Kids Classics. Too young for Jaws? Cartoonish piranhas, like those on Chooze’s sneakers, and preppy lobsters, like the ones on Cole Haan’s loafers, are playful, not scary.

Making Faces

Come face to face with a cast of creatures, from piglets to peacocks, which adorn sweet Mary Janes, moccasins and ballet flats. Rob Buell, owner of Jack & Lily Footwear, says the brand drew inspiration from children’s relationships with their favorite blankets and toys for their 3D character mocs. “Our Tiger, Kitty and Bunny are so playful and fun that kids can think of them as play pals,” he says. Yee expects this whimsical spin on the animal motif trend to be big for spring, in addition to classic prints in unusual color palettes (like leopard rendered in bright pink and purple).

The New Normal

After the advent of Normcore brought a stripped-down aesthetic to adult fashion last year, resulting in a surprisingly chic resurgence of Birkenstocks, Tevas and Adidas slides, the look is making its way onto children’s footwear for Spring ’16. “The big trend toward casual and comfort in adult footwear is impacting the way parents shop for their kids,” attests Blumberg. Yee predicts minimalist sneakers and sandals will be big, explaining, “Footwear continues to be more gender-neutral.” Think footbed slides, spare leather sandals and utilitarian sneakers.

Snack Pack

Last spring, appetite-piquing patterns covered kids apparel, and in footwear for Spring ’16, there’s a quirky print on the menu that will satisfy whatever you’re craving. Kids’ designers raided the fridge for inspiration, resulting in sneakers, boots and sandals emblazoned with tacos, hamburgers, cupcakes and cherries that will appeal to even the pickiest tots. “All kids love junk food, especially when their parents don’t let them eat it a lot,” says Ek. “The prints were inspired by everyone’s favorite cheesy snack foods and sugary treats.”


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