Who knew that kids clothes could be such a political minefield? Tread carefully or your kids will be forever scarred by clothes that are too pink and frilly, too synthetic, too macho or too Disney.
Parents that get riled by girls that are ‘Princesses’ and boys that are ‘Adventurers’, thanks to gender-specific t-shirt slogans, do have a valid point. There is enough gender pigeon-holing in this world, without clothes cementing silly stereotypes.
From a practical point of view, gender-neutral clothes make for much better hand-me-downs – as do well-made, quality items. In fact, this is another bugbear of many parents out there. The throwaway nature of kids products is ridiculous, so a brand with a sound ethical approach to manufacturing and its impact on the environment is worth supporting.
But most of all, kids clothes need to be comfy and fun – “not mini versions of what adults would wear”, as Dan Reynolds of kids clothing brand Fred and Noah, says. Togs that allow kids to hop and skip, to climb and twirl; that don’t unravel after a few washes, don’t cost the earth, or ruin the planet, and don’t exploit underpaid workers – is that too much to ask?
We think not. So here is our run-down of the Top 10 UK kids fashion brands that have caught our eye, and hopefully offer something for every child’s whim – and parents’ politics.
1. Knit Planet
The swishy, colourful designs of this UK brand are simple, yet eye-catching. Founders Micky and Nikki wanted to explore the glorious possibilities of comfy knit and have come up with a unique line that makes you want to buy every piece (although I find the Waffle Capri Shorts and Pocket Play Suits particularly charming at the moment).
Many of the designs are gender-neutral and the brand uses natural and sustainable fabrics such as organic cotton and merino wool – and they’re machine washable for worry-free use.
There’s something lovely and zen about Turtledove London. Simple graphic prints in monochrome organic cotton, with a touch of the whimsical in some of their animal designs. This brand sticks to what it does well: Some great unisex separates that can be combined at will – and are a joy to hand down to the next little one in line.
3. Kingdom of Origin
If your kid is not one for the minimalist, graphic-print approach to kids fashion, then Kingdom of Origin is worth exploring. This is a fantastic British brand, with founder Vanessa Wright passionate about creating an authentic British-made label. “I’m under no illusion that my business will have a monumental impact on the resurgence of the UK’s textile industry,” says Vanessa. “But I hope that my business can help towards the revival of British manufacturing, by inspiring others to follow suit.” KOO makes all garments in the UK, sourcing fabric, trims and producing labels and packaging here too.
The brand is a fantastic melange of laid-back playsuits and ruffle skirts, with summery dresses and super soft joggers thrown in.
4. Fred and Noah
Run by husband and wife team Natalie and Dan Reynolds, this small UK brand makes luxury clothing for 0-6-year-olds. Leggings, bedding and tops are all made in the UK, and t-shirts and hoodies are hand-printed in their Essex studio. The duo has sourced some lovely prints, and stick to what they do well – some great staples in cheery and bold fabrics. They also avoid the girl/boy labels – as Dan says, “We try to stay away from stereotypes but yes we do make fire engines and pink ponies. Ultimately it’s up to the parent and child.”
5. Tobias and the Bear
‘Cute meets cool’ is this brand’s motto. Another attractive kidswear company that was born out of the search for comfy baby leggings that also appeal to the design-conscious parent. Made in the UK, the brand features some graphic prints, with much origami-inspired illustrations. It will undoubtedly appeal to girls and boys – and those in search of a unisex approach to kids clothing.
6. Donna Wilson
Artist and designer Donna Wilson’s passion for craft ,and her boundless imagination are woven through all her products including her accessories for kids. Get your kids a little animal scarf or Mog hat and you will have a beautifully manufactured, high quality item that lasts. We love the colours and the humour in her brand – it’s a great little range for small and big.
All about the legwear, Braveling is the home to Little Titan tights. Originally conceived to offer sufficiently boyish tights as an alternative to the polka dots and frills for girls, the brand has rolled out a range of fun designs that suit little ones, no matter what gender.
Sticking to the original idea of tights and socks (with a couple of beanie hats thrown in), the brand has expanded, offering a niche and appealing line – that I, for one, am eyeing with much envy.
8. The Bright Company
You’ve not lived life until you’ve tried luxury pyjamas. This fantastic brand offers mix-and-match two-pieces for a lovely night’s sleep. You wouldn’t have thought that good design can make that much of a difference to the nighttime staple, but TBC’s SLIM JYMS pyjamas for example, are designed to be slim fitting so that they don’t ride up at night to leave skin exposed to the chill.
We love the designs – all colour accents and inviting patterns – and the best thing is that this kids brand also comes in designs for adults.
Graphic designer and 3D artist Claudia Carvalho launched this UK childrenswear brand in 2013 using her design background to good effect. The label is characterised by playful illustrated prints and simple shapes, all in soft colours and fabrics. Each piece is ethically produced by her family business in Portugal and brings her understated design aesthetic to bear beautifully.
10. Question Everything
Designed in London, made in Manila, this UK kids fashion brand was started by Angie Adams, a fashion designer and former rock band drummer. The brand offers charming frocks, hand-smocked with a modern twist, and now also some items for boys.