Linda McLean talks about the kids fashion industry over the last 40 years
Today we are meeting a lady who is in the industry since forever. Who has witnessed the change, growth and challenges. Seen many brands debuting, failing and growing.
You probably already guessed that today’s interview partner is Linda McLean, the editor behind kids fashion blog Smudgetikka.
In the fashion industry for 40 years now, first as a Fashion Editor in women’s fashion and then later in kids fashion. Linda lives in Wimbledon which is a leafy suburb in London.
Luna: Kids Fashion? Why kids? How did it all start?
Linda: I started in kids fashion partly because I became pregnant which is the old story but very true for lots of us in the kids wear business. My husband at the time was looking to do his own magazine project, having been a publisher for a small company that got sold. And together we looked at the parenting magazines that were available at that time, which was 20 years ago now, and we quickly realised how bad they all were.
I couldn’t believe a magazine didn’t exist for parents that was a good glossy like Vogue or Marie Claire. So we started one! It was called Junior Magazine and it ran in print for 15 years but now sadly just exists online. I parted company with it when paper publication stopped.
You are in the business for a long time. What changes have you noticed over the last years?
I have seen phenomenal growth in the industry. When I began I started with looking at around 50 strong brands, now there are hundreds. The competition is intense.
The good thing is that the market for a young mum now gives more choice than there has ever been across fashion and nursery items.
The bad thing is, that the competition and saturation of the market is holding back change.
Brands are scared to move away from a formula that works with buyers who are not very comfortable to experiment.
So it has become a little harder to find new things each season.
What top tips would you give a new brand that is about to launch?
Invest in a strong well styled photo shoot to stand out! Be prepared to be flexible, really do your research before hand to see what your competitors have at the trade shows and finally be realistic about the price you can sell for. Don’t expect to make many sales initially, at least in wholesale, people have to trust the brand and know you will be around for the long haul, not just a few seasons. Buyers are investing when they take a new brand, they need to know deliveries will come on time and that the quality will be good.
How do you feel Social Media is playing a role in today’s fashion industry?
It’s all important, especially Instagram. I feel that mum’s today are not reading blogs as often, they maybe look once a week or every two weeks but are on Instagram every day. Also the Facebook groups have been popular, but I think the problem with the charges for business customers on Facebook has meant a decline in use there.
Image: Smudgetikka / shot by Ulla Nyeman
Smudgetikka presents itself as the ‘best kids fashion in the world’ blog. How do you curate and how do you decide what to publish?
The best to me includes the luxury labels. But also great design and great photography. So I look for a combination of these strands when I consider what to feature. I am quite happy to feature a great High Street store shoot if its a fantastic shoot and the clothing is on trend. Likewise I don’t tend to feature luxury that is in the more classic and a little boring mode.
How did you get into blogging?
I began the blog in 2009 while I was at Junior Magazine, because I could see the way things were going with paper magazines and I wanted to make sure I had a future in the business. I started very slowly and simply and the blog grew in popularity naturally. I started Instagram the same way, quite a long time ago now, maybe 6 years.
Which fashion trends do you love right now?
I find there are not any strong new trends really. Something comes in like Millennial Pink or metallic and stays around for 5 years. Or something is in for 6 months and then everyone is bored with it and moves on. For myself I love the style of Dries Van Noten, beautiful prints and unusual fabric combinations.
As far as kids wear is concerned we seem to have a lot of sports influences for next season, following on from main fashion’s adoption of street wear styles.
Please share your favourite brands for boys?
Boys wear is a difficult one, there is a split between dressy and funky that is quite extreme. I always loved what Scotch Shrunk did and I think new Danish brand Sometime Soon have a cool approach for boys wear. For a classic jeans look I don’t think you can beat Replay and Diesel and for outerwear CP Company/ Stone Island do the best jackets. For the ultimate dressing up though it has to be Gucci.
Image: Chen Peng
And for us mums and adults – which brand are you loving at the moment?
Well Dries van Noten of course, but I know that is a little expensive. Gucci also for younger funky mums on the designer side.
I’ve been a long time fan of Preen as well. Also I’m seeing some really interesting brands coming out of South Korea and China and I think we will be seeing more of them in the future such as Ms Min and Chen Peng.
Any plans for the future?
Haha, to keep going hopefully! I think we are going through a period of rapid change so hopefully I can adapt and change to suit any new technological challenges we have ahead.
The trade show season is about to start next month. Which event are you particularly looking forward to?
Pitti Bimbo in Florence is my favourite trade fair. It is such a beautiful city and there are always catwalk shows with the children which are such fun. Also you really do see most of the best brands in the world there, with many overseas exhibitors and buyers.
What would you love to see in the kids fashion industry?
I would love to see some of the other media take it more seriously. There is very little coverage in daily papers although it is a big industry now in its own right. Of course fashion is always regarded as not very important but really the only news on the industry you can find is on specialist blogs such as mine and the main kids wear magazines that are present at the fairs.
Lets think 10 years ahead… at the moment we have the feeling that there will be no more brick and mortar stores, no print magazines and we will handle our lives through our huge mobile phones. What do you think?
Bricks and mortar have to redefine themselves. What they are there for and how to give the customer a more interesting experience. There is still value in seeing an item in your hands, the true colour, the thickness or softness of the cloth etc.
Maybe store will just become the showcase for the brand and the old fashioned department store will either become all about experiences or die.
With print magazines its tricky, everyone says they still love a magazine but nobody is buying them and advertisers refuse to pay a rate which will sustain them so I don’t know. A few will survive because there are always a few old technology items that survive. We still read books for example, vinyl has had a revival but it will be on a much smaller scale.
Many of the current fashion magazines are losing money or are run more as personal projects so I don’t know how sustainable that is going into the future.
Where to shop best for children in London?
Harrods is a treat with all the main brand designers there. For younger children Liberty London has a beautiful corner in the store with a peaceful atmosphere. Bonpoint on Marylebone High St is good for French chic. Up in Notting Hill around Ledbury Road there is a cluster of great independent stores such as Caramel London.
Thank you Linda!