By Natalie Hope McDonald
Posh Baby in Portland, Ore., has become a very popular go-to spot for finding must-have baby items in the Pacific Northwest. This fashionable kid’s lifestyle boutique, which specializes in the most stylish, eco-friendly products for children of all ages, features an ever-growing inventory of clothes, car seats, strollers, bedroom furniture, toys and gifts (lots of gifts).
Lacy Coble, store manager, said that most customers tend to be interested in keeping things simple when it comes to buying fashions. “For our customers,” she explained, “there tends to be a preference toward more neutral, simple and minimalistic styles for baby.”
Coble admitted the shop sells far less “traditional” styles of baby clothing than ever before. Whereas patterns, animal motifs and bright colors may be popular at other shops, she said muted tones are really what’s in at this busy Jackson Square shop. Parents here seem to be most interested in organic materials, gender-non-conforming colors, and function.
“For kids,” she said, “the high fashion, more unique clothing options don’t actually do as well for us.” Customers, she says, are less interested in name brands. Instead, they’re buying good quality clothes that are priced well, versatile and made with mostly natural materials.
The open, airy interior makes it easy for busy parents to shop. The space, brick on the outside with high ceilings inside, features punches of blues and greens on the walls. The combination helps to showcase even the most subdued fashions in an interesting way.
The layout is also broken into different departments. For example, one section will have strollers and toys while another spotlights apparel exclusively. There are also inventive vignettes that combine great items from different departments, like toys coordinating with bedrooms that encourage upsells. Often these displays are coordinated stylistically or seasonally.
“We have our clothing hanging and also displayed on table tops,” said Coble. “New clothing usually gets put on the table tops first, and we like to put together outfits so people can easily shop and pick things out. We sell a lot of items beyond clothing, so we try to keep the overall vibe organized, neat and easy to shop.”
When it comes to apparel, Coble said most customers are interested in material and price points. “People often come in specifically looking for organic cotton and will shop based on that factor alone,” she said. “There is also a brand (Kickee Pants) that is known for having very soft fabric made from a bamboo blend, so some people are looking for that material/brand specifically.”
She and the staff members also often tend to field questions about sizing, style and any new products belonging to longtime favorite lines. Popular (and organic) apparel items at the shop include long-sleeved kimono bodysuits by Babysoy, booties by Goumi Kids, footies, rompers and sleep sacks by Kyte Baby, Milkbarn organic burp cloths in animal print and whimsical tees featuring local color like Camp Oregon, Mr. Pickles and a VW bus.
“We do occasionally have people asking about where the clothing is made,” she admitted, “but not as often as the material, and if it’s organic or not. Fortunately, we are able to carry a couple of brands that are not made in China.”
Where Style Trumps Price
As a longtime shop in New York’s upscale Westchester region just outside of Manhattan, Adrian East in Bronxville, N.Y., has been a hub for baby and kids’ clothes since it opened its doors in 2002. Surviving tough economic times and increasing competition from chain stores has meant that East, the namesake owner, has had to set her shop apart from the competition in unique ways. She’s been so successful, in fact, that there’s now a second location on New York City’s fashionable Madison Avenue.
Since opening her eponymous shop, East said she’s quadrupled the store’s selection of religious and christening apparel, while also adding traditional looks for First Communion. Dresses by Joan Calabrese, Little Princess and the shop’s own all-silk private label are especially popular choices for these landmark events.
Other noteworthy apparel comes from Isabel Garreton, Beaufort, Florence Eiseman, Lucky Jade and Ralph Lauren. The clothing items range from classic party dresses and onesies to graphic hoodies (complete with the New York skyline) and preppy shoes (hello, baby oxfords).
East has noticed a few trends of late in baby apparel, namely less gender-specific styles and colors. “Moms are lately gravitating towards non-traditional colors,” she said, “away from pinks for little girls and into blues, grays and beiges.”
Kids’ styles mimic what adults are wearing, too. “For fall,” she explained, “we bought a lot of faux fur: faux fur vests, jackets, coats and dresses with faux fur bottoms. Fur seems to be everywhere and is consistently hard to keep in stock.”
To be sure that customers can easily browse the latest items, East said she “typically puts new selections on the center table. We make a display based on cohesive colors and styles.”
For example: One day there may be a pastiche of apparel in shades of gray and beige. Next week she may showcase pops of color with neutral tones to give customers a sense of what’s new, stylish and in for the season.
“The question that most often comes up is always related to sizing,” East said. “I think that is one of the advantages of shopping in small stores. My staff has been with me for years, so we know how to select the proper size for our customers, and, as a result, we get very few returns.”
Because customers who shop at East tend to be well heeled, price tends not to be a factor. “Style, I think, is paramount, but style on its own is not enough,” she said. “It has to be a beautiful garment that is constructed well and made with beautiful fabric.”
Where the Aisles Are Made for Strollers
At 1Z 2Z 3Z Baby & Toddler Boutique in Richmond, Va., kids’ fashion ranges from the more traditional to the contemporary (with everything in between). Brands like Petit Peony, Pennymeade, Kissy Kissy and Marie-Chantal are among the standouts in the newer (and much bigger shop).
Owner Lief Anne Stiles said her boutique expanded into a beautiful new space to make it easier for customers to navigate the store with baby carriages. “We are growing like the babies we serve,” she said. “And for children to play while moms shop.”
Stiles stays on top of the latest trends each season, and says this year everyone’s talking llama. “The llama is the new unicorn!” she said. “Yep, you heard it here first.”
The shop tends to display the newest and most popular apparel up front. Fashions are also showcased by size and by style, separating boys’ clothing from girls’ so, said Stiles, “it looks inviting and is also easy to find what you’re looking for. Moms are busy and grandmas love to linger – we have to appease both.”
Another big part of sales is the gift registry, which allows new parents to register for the latest looks for their babies. Most customers tend to ask similar questions when it comes to apparel. “Our most common question is about sizing,” said Stiles. “It can be tricky, as brands run differently. I’m very lucky to have a well-educated staff familiar with how clothing fits depending on the cut, where it is made and by whom. They are more than happy to help.”
Fashion Fit for D.C. Celebrities
Located in the heart of the posh Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C., Little Birdies has become a popular boutique for baby and kidswear in the nation’s capital. Since opening its doors in 2014, the shop’s been offering upscale children’s clothing, shoes and accessories for newborns up to size 14. The shop even offers in-house monogramming.
Shanlee Johnson, the very friendly founder and owner of Little Birdies, said she wanted to take a Southern approach to kid’s fashions by offering both traditional looks with more modern (read: fun and playful) styles. It’s a shop where nostalgia is mixed with the contemporary and the staff is eager to make suggestions.
“The best part about kids’ fashion trends,” said Johnson, “is they’re generally focused around adorable animals and happy colors. I would definitely say that unicorns and llamas are trending this season.” And when it comes to baby fashion, it’s all about elephants and giraffes. “We’re also seeing silhouettes from women’s fashion appear in mini fashion,” she said, “like bubble sleeves and distressed jeans.”
The displays in this bright and welcoming shop on busy Wisconsin Avenue do a great job of showcasing the latest looks each season – whether it’s a beautiful pullover featuring a llama or even a party dress.
“We like to feature our newest items in the front of the store,” explained Johnson, “and merchandise outfits from different designers together.”
For example, on one rack she may merchandise a top next to a coordinating pant or skirt, and then add an outerwear piece that would complete the outfit. “The atmosphere in our store is inviting and warm,” admitted Johnson. “We display our merchandise as if it were in a comfortable, elegant living room and streamlined for easy shopping.”
Meeting the needs of busy parents who want the best for their children isn’t always easy, but the staff in this cozy 700-square-foot shop make sure they’re readily available to answer questions, and to dish advice on what the must-haves are each season.
“Our customers have become like friends and family,” Johnson added, “so we always keep them in the loop.”
Does It Matter What’s Underfoot when Parents Shop with Their Kids?
Stacy Coble from Posh Baby in Portland, Ore.: “We have hard floors with a few spots with rugs. I’m not sure that children playing was taken into consideration when deciding on flooring, but carpeting throughout wouldn’t really be an option since people need to be able to push around the strollers to test them out. We do have toys the kids can play with, and the flooring has never seemed to be a problem. We also have a few balance bikes/push toys that kids can roll around; they are very popular while parents shop.”
Adrian East of Adrian East in New York City: “I have an engineered hardwood floor. And I do have a bench where children can sit and entertain themselves with pop-up books and the like.”
Leif Stiles of 1Z 2Z 3Z Baby & Toddler Boutique in Richmond, Va.: “Our floors are white tile and cleaned daily, so are our toys and play stations. We feature an art desk, kitchen and construction table (all of which are available for purchase), as well as dolls in a stroller and a box of infant toys” that kids can play with while parents shop.
Shanlee Johnson of Little Birdies in Washington, D.C.: “We have laminate wood flooring at the shop so it’s easy to clean and pretty indestructible. As much as we would love to entertain the kids with a play area dedicated to them, our shop is in Georgetown, so our space is fairly small. But we do have an antique pink Cadillac push car that the kids love to play in.”