The rise of the haute hand-me-down

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The appetite for pre-loved clothing has never been greater, with a thredUP report last year predicting that the market could overtake fast fashion by the end of the decade. And now childrenswear is cottoning on to the trend. Passing down clothes from one child to the next isn’t new – even the royal brood are habitually seen in outfits that once belonged to other family members. But the hand-me-down is acquiring a cachet with the rise in sustainable fashion and new childrenswear brands aiming to shift to a circular economy.

Kids O’Clock, a peer-to-peer platform that lets parents buy and sell clothes their children have outgrown, was born out of frustration with the current offering of second-hand childrenswear. When French-born, London-based Laura Roso Vidrequin launched the website last year, she was balancing the business with her day job as a senior buyer at Harvey Nichols and only intended it to be a side project. But the high levels of traffic led her to quit her job to work on the business full-time. “Resale is just a part of our everyday life now,” she says.

From left, a tunic dress with twirling skirt, vintage Laura Ashley dress and vintage smock-front dress, all from Wolf & Mabel
From left, a tunic dress with twirling skirt, vintage Laura Ashley dress and vintage smock-front dress, all from Wolf & Mabel © Anna-Louise Plumb

Parents can either list pieces themselves or have their items collected by the team, who will also take care of the uploads and sales. Vidrequin’s style nous feeds into the polished look of the site, which stocks high-end pieces such as Fendi and Chloé babygrows (from £35) alongside high-street brands like Zara, and features edits by parents including Leandra Medine Cohen, founder of Man Repeller. Kidswear Collective, which launched in 2018 and now has a concession at Selfridges’ London flagship, similarly partners with stylish parents such as Hannah Strafford-Taylor and Pearl Lowe, whose pre-loved children’s pieces are available to buy via their edits (from £18). 

Kids O’Clock’s a/w ’20 edit
Kids O’Clock’s a/w ’20 edit © Claire Guarry

Kids O’Clock shot its a/w ’20 edit in San Francisco
Kids O’Clock shot its a/w ’20 edit in San Francisco © Claire Guarry

Kids O’Clock a/w ’20
Kids O’Clock a/w ’20 © Claire Guarry

Renting is another fast-growing section of the kidswear market. Clothing rental business My Wardrobe HQ, which launched a childrenswear division last September, is the first European marketplace to offer both hire and resale for luxury children’s clothes. Parents can rent designer pieces from chi-chi childrenswear labels such as Caramel and Bonpoint from around £4 per day, and hold onto the pieces they love – a service they describe as a sort of “try before you buy”. The offering ranges from occasionwear pieces such as a Marie-Chantal salmon-pink tulle dress and a lace-trimmed organza silk dress in sky blue (from £7 per day), to more casual offerings like a bee-embroidered Gucci boys’ V-neck jumper (available to buy for £108). Brand consultant and creative director Sadie Mantovani promises that sticky chocolate smears and grass stains are removed by the company’s eco-friendly cleaning process between each rental. “When we go shopping, we’re all touching the clothes and rails, whereas by the time you get an item from us it’s cleaner and safer than it’s ever been,” she says. 

Vintage 1960s dresses by St Michael and Chilprufe, available from Wolf & Mabel
Vintage 1960s dresses by St Michael and Chilprufe, available from Wolf & Mabel © Anna-Louise Plumb

It isn’t just contemporary labels that are growing the resale market – vintage childrenswear is also enjoying a renaissance. “Children are dressed quite uniformly today and there’s not a lot of colour, so people delight in our selection,” says Hertfordshire-based Anna-Louise Plumb, whose online vintage store Wolf & Mabel offers a curated assortment of childrenswear from the 1930s through to the early ’80s. The site, which launched in 2019 off the back of a popular Instagram shop, is a treasure trove of Peter Pan-collared wool coats, ’80s sailor shirts and rare archive Laura Ashley and St Michael prairie dresses. All garments are washed and quality-checked, and any small repairs are carried out by Plumb’s mother. “You can see – particularly with those St Michael pieces that were made in Britain just before outsourcing began – the amount of detail that was commonplace then, from wide hems that make a dress hang beautifully to fabric-covered buttons and concealed zips,” says Plumb. “You just don’t find that quality on the high street today.”

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