This is an instructive Parson School of Design panel, animated by childrenswear consultant Caletha Crawford. Listen to the owner of Sweet William, show room owner Lynn Meyer,  co-owner of Appaman,  the children’s editor at Stylesight and more top industry insider speak about their experience in the children’s market. 

“Whether they’re starting from school, switching careers or have been in the children’s wear industry for years, everyone is always wondering what it takes to succeed in this industry. Together with Francesca Sammaritano, Assistant Professor (specialized in children’s wear), I hosted a panel at Parsons The New School for Design on April 3 to address this topic.

The event served to educate our fashion and marketing students as well as entrepreneurs on the realities and opportunities that exist within this market.

We were excited to welcome a panel that represented a wide cross section of the career paths within kids wear, including Nicole Yee, children’s editor at Stylesight; Bronagh Staley, owner of the Sweet William boutiques; Lynn Meyer, owner of the Lynn Meyer showroom; Charlotte Guess, freelance designer; Lisa Dinapoli, vice president of children’s wear at Tommy Hilfiger, Lynn Husum, co-owner of Appaman and Sion Betesh, executive vice president of licensing and marketing at Parigi Group”.

Below are some of the key takeaways from the event.

On staying true to your brand
“When I interview potential candidates I say we design in a very small box and our challenge is to make that box new and fresh every season. The way we push the envelope is diving into who our customer is. It’s about the small details.” —Lisa

On the power of brands
“Brands add value and self esteem. Sometimes without brands, there is no bottom for price in our market so a T-shirt’s a T-shirt, a jean is a jean. When you’re a global brand that represents a time and place or lifestyle even young kids want to be a part of it.” —Sion

On starting your own label
“[If I were to do it again,] I would have used other people’s money to start my company.  [And research] is crucial. That’s why I haven’t done it again. I haven’t seen that hole. Children’s wear is more saturated than it was.” —Lisa

On growing a brand
“Today we have a lot at our disposal to help promote new brands and social media is one of them. It’s very important to start the demand for a product from the consumer level back to the retail level. That is something that is almost essential today. It used to be the opposite; the rep would sell a line and moms would come in [to the store] and see this great new thing, and the trend started that way. It doesn’t work that way now.” —Lynn Meyer

On being well rounded
“I think I’ve done every job in the industry, and I think you need to because—especially working with small companies—you need to know about the retail, the wholesale, the production, the merchandising. That’s how you design a better product. That’s how you can advise the people [as a freelancer].” —Charlotte

On making it at retail
“You have to stay true to what you’re good at and what you can really execute. You have to get out there and speak to people and build relationships. You have to go to stores and shop and see how companies translate a brand and see what’s missing. Retailers have to have something meaningful on the floor to create those relationships [with consumers].” —Sion

On retail as business
“It’s a constant learning curve. You have to know what you want and your vision. In the beginning I was totally blind to [the financial side], and I would just buy based on my gut. The money is a science, and I’m learning you have to control your impulses.” —Bronagh

On new hires
I need someone who can hit the ground running. Someone who’s going to be able to take direction and be enthusiastic and organized and is willing to do anything—to do what you need to do and do it humbly and with a good attitude. —Lisa

On growing
“You never stop learning. You have to stay current and learn new technologies. I have a degree in three dimensional design. I went to evening class to learn grading, Illustrator and knitwear design once I realized that [children’s] is where I wanted to be.” —Charlotte

On the consumer
“I classify the shopper in our size range as the 5-Minute Mom. She has 5 minutes so she has to understand what’s on the [sales] floor—if it matches, if there are relatable separates or if it’s sets.” —Sion

On creating a line that will sell…
“Dream big but you have to think about what the market needs and what they’ll spend on. [For example,] boys want track pants or soft cotton pants. For every cotton twill you sell, you’ll sell five jersey pants. You have to think about how much you [should] put into a garment that may not sell.” —Lynn Husum