ABC News’ Mary Pflum reports:
New York City’s famed 5th Avenue has long been home to big name designers and high-end fashion.
So when a new “kid” joined the top fashion block in November, it was not just any kid but Gucci Kids, a first-of-its-kind children’s boutique sporting high end items – like a $2,900 fur coat, a $1500 sleeveless dress, and a $3800 biker jacket- all targeted for fashionistas ages 12 and under.
Fashion insiders say the new Gucci collection, which joins Burberry, Versace, Fendi, Dior and Lanvin in offering a kids’ line, is just one part of an ambitious retail initiative aimed at an ever-younger audience.
“These clothes are not for the playground, but for special occasions,” Jane Keltner de Valle of Teen Vogue told “Good Morning America.” “I can see more people splurging on a dress or a piece from these collections.”
There may be a recession going on, but you would not know it by looking at the sales of kids’ fashions.
Last year, sales of children’s clothing in the U.S. exceeded $32 billion, according to NPD Group Inc. Consumer Tracking Service
And $800 million of that was spent on designer labels alone.
Leslie Venokur, co-founder of the national mom organization Big City Moms, says the recent success of kids’ lines for high-end fashion names may be a case of parents trying to lavish on their kids what they cannot afford for themselves.
“Parents really want to give their kids the best,” she said.
“If it means not going out to dinner or not getting the latest handbag, that’s okay, because my child means everything to me. I’d rather give everything to her,” she said, describing the mindset of some parents.
Others attribute the current fashion phenomenon to celebrity offspring like Suri Cruise, the only child of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes who has been sporting couture since she was in diapers.
“Celebrity offspring have become much more visible. They’re paparazzi stars in their own right,” Teen Vogue’s Keltner de Valle told “GMA.” “That has put children and what they wear more in the spotlight.”
Photos of five-year-old Suri sporting high-end fashions like custom-made Lanvin shoes have captured the attention of scores of mommy bloggers in the process too.
And now, this winter, Lanvin is not just for Suri anymore. Lanvin Petite is available now to the little girl masses.
The Parisian collection hit Lanvin stores this winter. Among the items up for grabs: a $1,600 trench coat and an $1,100 sundress.
The Lanvin Petite collection, believed to be the most expensive line of children’s clothing to date, comes a few months after Versace opened its first all-kids store in Milan, Italy.
In September, fashion icon Ralph Lauren held his first full runway show for his girls’ collection during New York’s Fashion Week. The show was treated with all the seriousness of any grown-up Fashion Week collection, complete with paparazzi and front-row fashion.
“GMA” assembled a group of mothers and daughters to weigh in on the new “kiddie couture” collections.
The girls, ages five to 12, said that while they may be small, fashion, for them, is already big.
“A lot of my friends like Steve Madden,” said one of the girls, while another said her closet already includes clothes by designer Marc Jacobs, a favorite of Hollywood celebrities.
The girls’ mothers, meanwhile, expressed concern that the new high-end collections are another sign of the growing pressure on both moms and the girls to look a certain way.
“When I was growing up , the kids wore kids stuff and moms wore mom stuff and now it kind of blurs,” Mindy Mervis, mother of a 12-year-old girl, told “GMA.”
The moms said they also worry the collections make it harder than ever to teach girls values, like beauty not being determined by a fancy label or a pricey garment.
“There’s definitely pressure on what the girls want and what other girls are wearing,” said one mom.
While the moms say that they want their girls to look good, they draw the line at the notion of costly fur coats like the one featured in the new Gucci collection.
“Not for $3,000!,” a mom responded when asked by “GMA” if she would buy her daughter such a coat.