Playtime is the world’s largest platform for independent children’s labels, with shows in Paris, Tokyo and New York. The 8th edition of the NY show took place last week, featuring a comprehensive selection of unique American and international brands from all over the globe. Since Florence wasn’t able to come to this show I had big shoes to fill but I gave it my best shot!

This year, with over 120 exhibitors, mainly infant and children’s clothing, but also shoes, accessories, baby gear, toys, deco/design products, and childcare, Playtime New York had the most vendors in its history and was without a doubt a « can’t miss destination» in the US children’s market.

In my opinion it was a bit strange that this cuteness overload took place on Wall Street, the opposite world of childhood and fun. But, once inside the space, it was really easy to forget about the outside world and to be blown away by the innovation, talent and beauty of this exciting industry.

It was wonderful to discover new designers emerging confidently despite the slow economy, and being able to see the FW 14 collections from brands I already know and love. The space was huge and rather unpacked but, at the same time, it allowed visitors to wander comfortably and to interact with many of the participants. The ambiance was welcoming and friendly. That being said, for a lot of the exhibitors, it felt like the traffic was slow and the fair was a bit too quiet.

The awkward location was the main reason given to explain the slower pace.  On the bright side, everyone agreed on the fact that Playtime New York is getting better and better every season from a product assortment point of view, offering more and more diversity. The March edition remains, to eveyone’s opinion, a strong one in terms of sales.

An other interesting point, highlighted by one of the exhibitors, was the fact that beside J Crew, Barney’s and Giggle, no other major market buyer showed up. This surprised me as I thought the offer was so qualitative. (AFTER THIS ARTICLE WAS PUBLISHED, PLAYTIME NEW YORK CAME BACK TO US. THE MENTIONED BUYERS DID ACTUALLY ALL VISIT THE SHOW – THEY JUST DID NOT VISIT THAT PARTICULAR EXHIBITOR…).

The thing that struck me most during the conversations I had with the designers or while reading material from brands, is the importance that labels put on the ethical sourcing + producing and on the use of organic fabrics. It seems that organic, eco-friendly and locally made are the key words of this edition.

I was really excited to discover the phenomenal selection of unique, beautiful, sustainable brands that came to Playtime NY. My moon who believes you do not have to sacrifice the environment for fashion is a good exemple of this strong trend. They use organic and sustainable fabrics, printed with non-toxic water-based inks and packaged in an eco-friendly manner. All their production is made in small volumes at a family owned-and-operated factory in downtown San Francisco.

While walking through the fair, I quickly realized that you can’t really go wrong at playtime. Every participant has something interesting to share! There are so many pretty things to see. From bobo choses to Caramel baby & child, Nelly Stella, Beau loves, Belle enfant, Louise Misha, Oeuf, Atsuyo et Akiko, Etiquette clothiers, Ketiketa, or lucky fish, to name a few, most of my favorite children brands were there and continue to work their magic on me.

I still love the bold graphic star prints coming in vibrant colors and the uber comfiness of Noe and Zoe rich fleecy cotton clothes and accessories.

Oeuf gorgeous, full of humor and Brooklyn pride knit pieces are still must have pieces to me and I loved the mini version of the alpaga goodies.

Etiquette super cute luxury sock sets are still the best baby shower gift you can think of, and their collaboration with Atsuyo et Akiko make those gift sets even more irresistible. They are indeed the world most proper basics!

Zuzii handcrafted shoes made in America, are just crushing it each season with their super soft leathers, great color range and whimsical designs. I wish they would come in bigger sizes too! I adored the “crochet like” suede leather tote coming in bright colors.

You can’t go wrong with Herschel creative backpacks for the every day traveler. Especially loved the navy/red Polka dot print.

Jess Brown took their dolls to a new height of sweetness. How many can I have in one room?

Belle enfant, luxury fashion brand for infant to 2 years had, once again, an absolutely gorgeous collection in powdery colors with a pinch of bright coral. Their decor was super cute too. But it is really Nancy the latest “belle enfant” child who stole the show! Comfortably lying in a basket on the floor of the booth,  she was wearing the Belle enfant collection in the best way possible and was smiling at everyone… She was so amazingly at ease and well behaved it took me a few seconds to realize she was indeed a “real” baby!

Louise Misha’s new collection stole my heart once again. This Parisian-based children’s label presented a bohemian-chic, poetic and playful collection with their usual impossible to resist accessories…

I have to mention Nellystella’s, oh so dreamy, dresses from the FW collection as well as from the wedding and party collection that would make any girl feel like a Princess !

Since it was a winter show, the knitwear items were pretty amazing everywhere but I was particularly taken by Fanny Belette’s luxurious super soft knits.

However, if I had to choose to highlight some products/labels I would select the following ones as they really caught my attention either because I didn’t know them before and fell in love with their aesthetic, or they had a really unique product (and still had the “cuteness effect” on me):

–       Odette Williams’ fun and unique products are adorable. I really loved the line of aprons set coming in simple yet super cute designs. Each set comes with an apron, a mitt and three wooden ustencils. They would make amazing party favors!

–       Twiggy and Lou’s collection of dreamy garlands would add magic to any room. The sweet mini armonica necklace also caught my eye. I thought all her products were so tasteful and full of tenderness. A lot of pretty little things for little ones indeed…

–       New Zealand, Solvej’s super cool line of simple wooden swings for babies and big kids is just great! They work indoor and outdoor and I love the fact that you can use them until your kid turns 6 years old.

–      Homegrown books: amazing art-based, eco-friendly book sets for beginning readers. Another great Brooklyn-based brand created by two beautiful women who thought children deserve reading materials as rich as their imagination. They work with various artists to create different beautiful boxed sets. Love this idea of book boxed set as much as the fantastic illustrations. Undeniably one of my favorite discoveries.

–       Muny’s wonderful block printed quilts of course caught my eye! After 3 years in India, how could I resist these happy prints? Just by looking at them, I could feel the sun!

–       Adorable Lille Huset’s line of “Make and Play” architectural cardboard doll houses by Grow Design was a super nice find too. “A modern twist on a classic toy” that cannot be missed. They come flat-packed with already some ready-to-cut paper accessories like a paper chair, a  bike, a mailbox… They are the perfect small gift or travel companion when going on holiday!

–       Tuchinda’s ready-to-wear collection made a strong impression on me: I especially liked the stylish coats coming in luxurious fabrics (the reversible Tokyo plaid jacket was so cool) and liberty fabrics. This brand really piqued my interest for their urban sophistication, beautifully crafted standout pieces that adults would want for themselves too! Created by a really nice NY-based husband and wife team, the collection is an interesting mix of “Parisian chic-Milanese sophistication and Japanese cool” and looks super promising.

–         Motoreta elegant and contemporary silhouette using sophisticated constructions in a playful way caught my attention too. They were Playtime New York newcomers and a great addition to the fair, in my opinion.

To make an already long story short I really had the best time at Playtime New York last Monday, discovering new collections and being inspired by new designers. It was a real pleasure for the eyes and I am glad I was able to attend. There is so much beauty in this industry and it is really hard to choose among all of them. I am sure I missed some great products… But I am already looking forward to the next Playtime to widen even more my kid’s fashion horizons as the sky seems the limit to all these amazingly talented people behind these beautiful brands.

playtime new york march 2014

Additional feedback from an exhibitor  (Jimena Bruguera of HBB Industria Argentina)

“The show overall was good, it moved at a slow pace but I think in NY is a little bit like that, it has moments when it gets very busy and then it remains quite tranquil, during these moments it creates a very nice atmosphere between the exposants that have the time to share experiences, plan collaborations, create contacts and admire each other work. There are a lot of people in Playtime who do very beautiful work and have amazing stories of how much they care about what they do, how they do it and what it means to them.
  (…) There was an amazing machine called style photos and we all took advantage of having it there, the gentlemen very super nice and gave us all the opportunity to try it with some of our pieces with immense patience, It basically takes a shot of your piece floating in a white background with a amazing quality and detail in a matter of seconds, ready for a webpage, etc.
 For HBB the show was good, I had returning customers and made a few new ones!”
HBB Industria Argentina