Soft tri-blends and fashion-led styles dominate the new kidswear collection from Bella + Canvas
After two years of planning, research and design, Bella + Canvas launched its brand new childrenswear collection in January 2018. The modern, fresh range is far removed from traditional baby pink and baby blue numbers, and offers kids the chance to wear tri-blend tees in shades such as olive and all-in-ones in heather tones.
Bella + Canvas began more than 30 years ago when founders Danny Harris and Marco DeGeorge began screen printing after leaving high school in the US. The pair quickly realised there was a gap in the market for garments that had a fashion fit and quality, rather than the basic promo styles they were printing on. Believing other screen printers were facing the same demand for more retail-inspired styles, they set to work creating their first collection. It was a hunch that has paid off, with Bella + Canvas now the number two wholesale clothing company in the US after Gildan, according to San Ferdinand, who runs the brand’s European sales and marketing operation.
The screen printing background of its founders has had a strong influence on the brand’s approach. Printing guidelines are always included in all the brand’s catalogues and online, and the team makes a point of not only testing decorations garments in-house, but also getting all its garments tested by working printers. “We want to make sure our styles really work for our customers,” explains San.
Although Bella + Canvas products are only available through distributors, the company has worked hard to establish good relationships with both printers and the end users. “We’ve made a conscious effort to speak to them and constantly stay in touch and find out what they’re buying, where it’s going, who it’s going to, and we use that information when creating a collection. Otherwise, you’re going in blind. We’d rather not guess, we’d rather sit down with decorators and their customers and say, ‘What do you think?’ It’s important to build a relationship and find out what’s going on in the market.”
It’s this approach that led to the new kidswear collection. The company previously offered just three pieces for babies, all in a ribbed fabric. While it did well, the older style fabric didn’t fit with the rest of the brand’s on-trend styles. “What we decided to do was to relaunch our kids collection, but not only do babywear, but add in a toddler and youth story as well, and base the new styles on our bestselling adult styles,” San comments.
The company carried out extensive research to ensure the range they launched would have maximum appeal to the end user. “We talked to our biggest customers globally to find out their thoughts and ideas, and we looked at what’s going on in retail: what’s selling, what colours, what fabrics, what styles. We wanted to keep it high end, and that’s what we’ve done.”
The new collection ranges from the Baby Jersey Short Sleeve One Piece (100B) in 100% cotton (ringspun and combed, like all the cotton the brand uses) to the Youth Flowy Racerback Tank (8800Y). (See ‘The Bella + Canvas Kids collection’ for full list of garments.)
The company’s bestselling adults’ style, the Unisex Jersey Short Sleeve Tee (3001), provided the basis for three of the tees, while the Unisex Triblend Short Sleeve Tee inspired the three tri-blend designs, which are made from combed, ringspun cotton, polyester and viscose. “It’s our number two best-selling fabric in the adult market. Nobody has that for children,” advises San. “We’ve had a really good response because it’s just so soft.”
Another style is taken from the brand’s third best-seller, the Unisex 3/4 Sleeve Baseball Tee (3200), offering a contrastcolour garment that manages to be simultaneously cute and street.
Fast Fashion hits the UK
Bella + Canvas launched its Fast Fashion line in the US two years ago, offering retail pieces that once they were gone, they were gone. A version of this US line has now hit the UK, although the styles will be supported for at least five years, giving decorators the consistency they and their clients need.
The UK line is made up of the brand’s five bestsellers from the Fast Fashion line. “The pieces are incredible,” says San. “We’ve always led the market in terms of retail styles, but these new pieces take us beyond any competition.”
The new pieces are the Unisex Jogger Sweatpants (3727), Racerback Cropped Tank (6682), Women’s Flowy Muscle Tee (8804), Flowy High Neck Tank (8809) and Jersey Raw Neck T-Shirt (3014).
Music merch is the top market for Bella + Canvas, and children’s versions of the 3/4 Sleeve Baseball Tee look set to win over this sector as well. “We recently did baseball tees with black body and white arms for Metallica,” explains San. “We’re now offering that exact tee for babies and toddlers as well, but it wasn’t available at the time – they were so gutted. They said, ‘Imagine if we had the same print for the kids! I guarantee you there would be a huge amount of people there who would want to buy that for their children.'”
The market is changing, she believes, with people wanting garments that feel great and which are a bit different. “If you go to a concert, they’re sick and tired of the band print being on a horrible tee. They want it on something nice-looking. They don’t want that cheap, low quality tee anymore. Youmight wear it once, you might clean the windows with it, but you won’t want to wear it on a daily basis. People are realising the need for higher quality tees. There isn’t a big price difference with our product, and you can charge a little bit more for it. People in the UK have really realised this in the past year – the UK is now our number one market in Europe.”
Other strong markets for Bella + Canvas are the independent retail brand and fitnesswear sectors. The Youth Flowy Racerback Tank is ideal for the dance market, where the older girls already wear the Women’s Flowy Racerback Tank (8800). “The older girls have been wearing the tank, but there was nothing for the younger girls. Now we have this new tank just for them and they’re so excited that they can wear matching tops.”
The colour palette across the whole kidswear range is another standout selling point for the range. “Rather than focusing on baby blue, pink and yellow, we focused more on shades like heather stone and olive, because we’re finding that in the kidswear retail market, a lot of parents buy items for their children that are similar in style and colour to adults’ garments. They’d rather buy a denim colour or a peach than a baby blue,” reports San.
Those decorators who are not yet selling kidswear are missing a trick, believes San. “Why are you so restricted to adults?” she asks. “Wherever you’re selling an adult tee, wherever it’s going, some of them [end users] are likely to have kids and will love to be offered a kids’ option in the same style, especially if it’s a Bella + Canvas one where it’s available in a great, retail colour, and where you can say, ‘We don’t want to offer your children something itchy and not very well-fitting. We want to offer children the same quality and the same fit that the adults get to wear’.”