Fashion: Don't call it kids' stuff

What do kids really, really want? It's not the Spice Girls, that's for sure. Don't call them kids, either. If anything, call them pre-teens or teenagers. And beware: if you are thinking of buying some clothes for a teenager this Christmas, they are very, very hard to please, says Melanie Rickey. Photographs by Andrew Lamb

If the fashion PR Phyllis Walters had her way, her 11-year-old daughter Robyn would be wearing knee-high white socks, a pretty dress, and an Alice band in her hair, but she doesn't stand a chance. Robyn likes Top Shop, IDX (a pre-teen range from Debenhams), Miss Selfridge, Diesel, Levi's and cK by Calvin Klein. Her favourite designer range is by Pearce II Fionda, the diffusion collection by the award-winning British duo, and she buys Sugar magazine every week, which is full of fashion and music gossip. What's more, she wants to be a fashion designer.

Walters has been forced to compromise the instinct to keep Robyn "a little girl" for as long as possible and, despite her profession, has brought up her daughter in an environment deliberately devoid of fashion influences. "I'm certainly not Eddy from AbFab. It's just that they are so clear about what they want. I think it actually starts at about age six," she says wearily. Walters is not alone. Finding clothes for the 10-14 year-old age group is not easy. They may still want their teddies at night but when it comes to clothes they want labels, they want to look cool, but most of all they want to belong.

The five that turned up for our shoot, Robyn, James and Sophie, all aged 11, Fleur, 13, and Jeremy, 14, were surprisingly clued up about their likes and dislikes and all loved modelling for the shoot, despite the fact that they wouldn't wear all of the clothes. Jeremy Stubbings, the oldest of the group at 14, was the most sophisticated. "I don't wear shirts," he says emphatically, "except for school that is." He is, by his own definition, a Skateboy who favours baggy clothes from dedicated skate and surf labels such as Quiksilver, Stussy and Alien Workshop. During the shoot he wore clothes from Ralph Lauren Polo ("I wouldn't wear them"), which is aimed at children and teenagers but is a scaled-down version of the adult range, so it is not condescending. The same goes for ranges from cK Calvin Klein, DKNY, Diesel, Ben Sherman, and Paul Smith. Each label does "grown-up" clothes and each of our young models aspired to them.

Jeremy liked the navy Diesel trousers. "I haven't really got any trousers like that, but I'd like some," he says.

The girls, however, were a different story. Sisters Sophie, 11, and Fleur, 13, are both tall, about 5ft 3in to 5ft 4in and have size seven feet, like Robyn. All agree that the Spice Girls are "a bit tiring now" and have transferred their allegiance to the other girl band All Saints. Fleur, unlike the others, was given an allowance of pounds 40 a month to spend on clothes when she turned 12. It was revoked when skin-tight jeans, crop-tops and sportswear from Miss Selfridge and Mark One were sneaked home after shopping trips with her friends. "My mum wanted me to buy smart stuff." It will be reinstated, she hopes, in January, by which time she will have turned 14.

Sophie has similar tastes to her sister, but leans more towards casual sporty wear, rather than tight jeans and crop-tops. Her favourite item on the shoot was the red "spaced" T-shirt from Miss Selfridge. "I like combat trousers and hooded tops. I don't wear skirts often, except when I'm going out," she says.

All this fashion talk, including phrases like "I liked the cK dress, it can be worn for smart or casual," from Robyn, and "I love Sugar for its fashion pages," from Fleur is a bit unsettling at first. Most of us who are old enough to talk about our childhood with a sense of nostalgia remember very occasional trips to C&A Clockhouse or Chelsea Girl for clothes to wear out of school time. Miss Selfridge and Top Shop was for grown- ups, or those with a Saturday job and lots of money. Not any more. These stores are now a Mecca for young and pre-teenage girls. They cleverly range their sizes from six upwards. So being eleven and without the curves that come later in the teens is no problem. These girls can buy into the look peddled by magazines like Sugar, Bliss and Just Seventeen without seeking out childrenswear stockists which are strictly, they say, for babies.

James Powell, the third 11-year-old, was the easiest to please, though how long that will last is anyone's guess. He likes blue jeans and loves his Planet Hollywood shirt and black Puffa jacket. On the shoot the DKNY trousers and Ben Sherman shirt were a hit, but if he had pounds 200 to spend on clothes he would buy a pair of Levi's, some Nike Air trainers and some baggy skatewear.

Overall the girls favoured bright funky clothes from the high street, and liked "designer" for really smart wear. The boys, on the other hand, wanted practicality with branding, but none of them wanted clothes specifically aimed at children. Being a kid these days, oops sorry, pre-teen or teenager, seems a rather complicated business. Should we thank these designers and high street shops for creating such needs in them, or should we let them get on with it? The last word goes to Phyllis Walters: "They'll do what they want anyway, so we should just let them, but only within reason." And within the confines of the budget, of course. These clothes do not come cheap, but they sure made our models happy.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Developer

    £15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital agency is looking ...

    Guru Careers: Financial Director / FD / Senior Finance Manager

    Up to 70k DOE: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Financial Director ...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company has been manufacturing high quali...

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £35,000+

    £16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is the fairest onl...

    Day In a Page

    Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

    US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

    Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

    'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
    The male menopause and intimations of mortality

    Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

    So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
    Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

    'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

    Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
    Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

    Bettany Hughes interview

    The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
    Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

    Art of the state

    Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
    Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

    Vegetarian food gets a makeover

    Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
    The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

    The haunting of Shirley Jackson

    Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
    Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

    Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

    These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
    Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

    Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
    HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
    Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

    'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

    Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
    Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

    The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

    Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen