Youngsters crave luxury labels


Feb 23, 2006
Youngsters crave luxury labels : The Morning Call Online

December 2, 2006
Youngsters crave luxury labels

Upscale retailers find good business catering to 'tweens,' children 8 to 12 years old.
By Alana Semuels Los Angeles Times

| Dressed in pink Ugg boots, Seven jeans and a matching pink sweater and cap, Elizabeth Cohen looks the epitome of hip as she winds her way through the holiday crowds at a shopping center here.

Cohen is a discerning consumer — she names Prada and Dolce & Gabbana as her favorite brands.

She's also 10 years old.

''I ask her, 'What do you need these for?''' said her mother, Jane Cohen of the Bel-Air district of Los Angeles, who shops mostly at vintage stores and garage sales.

But the 10-year-old is hardly unusual. Elizabeth and other ''tweens'' — children who are 8 to 12 years old — are expected to demand luxury goods this winter.

The season's shopfest is under way, and for tweens and teenagers, the search is on for expensive accessories, belts, purses and shoes such as those seen in fashion shows and magazines.

''There's a huge uptick in teens shopping for traditional luxury brands,'' said Jim Taylor, vice chairman of the Harrison Group, a marketing firm that recently conducted a survey of teenagers' preferences. ''Having a Gucci scarf is part of being a kid today.''

But even on the affluent west side of Los Angeles, these youths rarely have closets of luxury goods. Many, including Elizabeth Cohen, also shop at Target or Gap, looking for bargains they can mix and match with luxury accessories.

''It's not only the rich communities — it's anywhere that kids have an income,'' said Kurt Barnard, president of Barnard's Retail Consulting Group in New York. ''A lot more kids earn money than used to, and they feel they have the right to spend their money as they see fit.''

Taylor said teenagers buy these brands with allowance money or wages earned from part-time jobs. This can lead to a fair amount of spending on brands once known only to the rich and famous.

''They're 100 percent more brand-conscious today than they used to be,'' said Fraser Ross, owner of the upscale store Kitson. ''A 12-year-old will know what Louis Vuitton is.''

Kitson is known as a high-end west side celebrity haunt. A year ago, Ross added Kitson Kids, but tweens still prefer items at his main store, such as $190 Seven for All Mankind jeans and $650 Isabella Fiore handbags. Many customers, he said, see celebrities wearing brands and buy the same ones.

''I call them ABC girls — Armani, Blahnik, Chanel,'' Ross said. ''They wear everything branded.''

Nor is the interest just among girls. Kitson opened a men's store in September. He included clothes in small sizes for boys — often propelled to the store by their girlfriends, Ross said.

The interest in these brands isn't just for the wealthy, said Kim Ciliberto. She owns Tutti Bella, an e-retailer selling upscale baby and children's clothing, such as embroidered pants by Nolita Pocket, an Italian brand, for $176.95.

Ciliberto's sales have more than doubled in the last year, and her customer base spreads across the United States. Some of her clients buy the expensive items for a special occasion, but others splurge on fancy baby and children's gear for everyday wear.

''Both parents and their kids are more label-conscious,'' Ciliberto said. ''Parents start when kids are babies, and by the time kids are older, they recognize the brands.''

Part of this interest comes from baby boomers who have grown up in affluence, said Marshal Cohen, chief analyst at the NPD Group. In part, parents ''want to show their status through their kids,'' he said.

Cohen expects that this holiday season the interest in brands will lead to the ''one-for-you, one-for-me'' phenomenon, in which a mother buying a Coach bag for her 8-year-old daughter will also buy one for herself — a boon for luxury retailers.

Designer apparel represents about 9 percent of teenage clothing purchases, Cohen said, far greater than the percentage just a few years ago.

But if you ask the customers, it's not always Mom and Dad who spur an interest in brands and support luxury purchases.

Alex Demopoulos, 12, of Santa Barbara recently stopped by a Coach store during a visit to Los Angeles. She had her eye on a brown purse with a white stripe selling for more than $130. Alex and friend Caitlin Connor, also 12, said their favorite brands were Burberry, Juicy Couture and Gucci.

Kids learn of brands from reality TV, celebrity reports and magazines such as Teen Vogue, said Samantha Skey, a senior vice president at Alloy Media and Marketing, a New York youth research and marketing firm.

During their tween years, kids switch from being influenced by their parents and the brands they buy to being influenced by their peers and the brands they aspire to own.

For many tweens, identifying with a brand is part of developing an identity independent from their parents. This generation's tweens and teens have grown up confident that they will have lucrative careers, so they feel entitled to own luxury brands.

But much of the interest in these brands is purely aspirational, Skey said.

For many children, this means getting access to luxury products any way they can, such as buying knockoffs, or looking for deals online, or sharing designer handbags with their mothers.

Alana Semuels is a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, a Tribune Publishing newspaper.
''Having a Gucci scarf is part of being a kid today.''

''A lot more kids earn money than used to, and they feel they have the right to spend their money as they see fit.''

What the hell kind of lemonade stand are these alleged ten-year-olds running? More likely, I think it's mom and dad allowing their lax spending habits to leak down to Junior.

It's bad enough that our local Starbucks is overrun with soccer moms and their high-powered strollers. I was in there picking up a latté for my little brother the other day, and it was just creepy to see the iPod- and Ugg-sporting tweens take up camp.

But much of the interest in these brands is purely aspirational, Skey said.

Important point. Still, if you're receiving Gucci scarves at ten (by any means possible, no less, says the article), what's left to be special?
I believe it. The malls here are over run by Ugg wearing, Coach carrying kids. I was in an elevator at Macy*s the other day, and a girl who was about 13, commented on how she liked my Balenciaga. She told me she asked her mom for one when she saw Nicole Richie carrying one, but she said her mom said the day she bought her a $1000 bag, was the day a snowball survived in hell.
I'm not surprised. Have you seen "My Sweet 16" on MTV. I think parents are to blame. A friend of mine is putting her kid in TR jeans and she's only 7. Now do you think a 7 yr old has any clue as to what TR jeans are if mom and dad weren't the label mongers.
Yeah, I never got into designer stuff until my mid/late teens.. and while my parents were in the upper middle class (sounds contridictory right?) then never bought such things for me, I bought whatever I needed on my paycheck. But may I add that since I was from an upper middle class/rich class, a lot of kids had chanel and lv and such. I think going to a catholic school acted as a buffer till I hit public high school, where I could see those chanels and sevens in all their glory.
I noticed a thing: when I was younger, let's say 15/16 y.o., we all girls had our favourite brands, such as Benetton, Max & Co, Levi's which were really cool and were the top. But these brands were the top only for teenagers.
now we see that kids want the same brands as their parents do, they want Chanel, that 10 years ago sounded like the granny's brand to us, they want Dolce & Gabbana but not D&G, because it's not the main line.
It looks like youngster are loosing identity.
I really enjoyed reading this article.. I'm seventeen, so i feel i'm not completly out of my mind for having the things i do, however, i do know that i am extremely lucky.

Anyway, the mall i frequent is Tysons II in Virginia (they have NM, Saks, Chanel, Burberry, Versace, Betsey Johnson, Ferragamo, etc..) and last time i went i seriously saw these 7-12 year old girls decked out in True Religions, Coach and Juicy, and a few with LV's! Some were also wearing fairly heavy makeup and had their hair done pretty emaculately for such a young girl! And they were walking around the mall without parents just with friends their own age! It was definitely a little shocking and weird to watch.. especially because i usually feel like i'm young shopping in NM! Definitely fastinating, though. I DID NOT grow up that way..
I just saw 20/20 last night and there was a little something about the popularity of designer labels for the very young. A $300 pair of jeans for a toddler? :nuts:

The owner of this boutique where these jeans were sold said "how much do you value your kids?" when John Stossel asked how anyone could spend so much on clothing for little kids. We show value to our kids by what we buy them? What? Is it just me or is that just plain wrong.

Of course I want my daughter to have some nice things but I certainly don't want her to equate that to my love and care and my value for her.

There was even a piece a little later where this little girl mentionned that if you wore nicer clothing you'd be more popular unlike those with "ugly clothing".
I thought the article and the comments in this thread were interesting to read. Now, perhaps I should just keep my mouth shut, but I found it ironic how easy it was to blame the parents for the kids' spending habits. Yet, when moms here make posts about buying their young children designer clothing and Louis Vuitton handbags, feedback is unanimously encouraging. I remember a while back when someone asked if it was appropriate to buy their daughter expensive luxury goods, and the responses mostly ran along the lines of "it's your money, buy her whatever you want, she'll look adorable!". Therefore, I'm amused at how easy it is to point fingers at people who are easily among ourselves. This is my opinion only.

*Puts on flame suit.*