Children’s wear is leading the way with inclusive fashion campaigns. Denis Kuvaev/Shutterstock.com
When it comes to being open-minded, children tend to have the advantage over adults. And when it comes to inclusivity, children’s fashion is currently at the forefront. With brands such as OF ONE SEA, GapKids X ED and Livie & Luca paving the way for kids to accept themselves and others. Combining their open-mindedness with the non-gender specific clothing and diversity in advertising they will come to expect, this generation of kids is going to be a force to be reckoned with as they grow up.
There has been extensive scientific research exploring children and their predispositions and biases. A recent study undertaken by the University of Edinburgh and the University of California Berkeley concluded, “Children can learn the abstract properties of causal relationships using only a handful of events. Moreover, children were more likely than adults to generalize the unusual conjunctive relationship, suggesting that they are less biased by prior assumptions and pay more attention to current evidence.”
The science is there, but there are also real life examples to illustrate how children viewed controversial subjects. Take Caitlyn Jenner as an example. Hatch Initiative and SheKnows teamed up to gather the reactions of children in regards to Bruce Jenner becoming Caitlyn Jenner.
“It’s important for you to be yourself, because if you’re not yourself, who are you?” one child said. Another added, “Who she wants to be is who she should be.”
Children’s wear designers are capitalizing on the fact that their audience is so open and willing, and by doing so, they’re instilling certain important ideals at an early age.
“Children who see a reflection of themselves in an ad always seem to respond positively,” says Allison Charvat, marketing and communications manager for Livie & Luca, a brand that just featured a models with Down syndrome in their back-to-school campaign. “Children in general, I think, tend to be more open-minded and expect to see their peers in the world around them.”
“I do believe if you grow up seeing people of all abilities represented in advertising, you will always expect it from brands you shop. Hopefully there are many adults that will grow to expect the same.”
At the very least, these brands are striving to connect with their much younger audiences, but maybe this is what it takes to reach out to adults. Sometimes, you just have to start small, and sometimes, it only takes a simple idea to spark change.
The brand OF ONE SEA is hoping that’s the case. Its ethos is built on one very simple, yet very important idea: we are all waves of one sea.
“I was raised with the strong belief that all mankind is one. There was a unity song I sang as a child that symbolized the unity of mankind through nature, ‘we are drops of one ocean, we are waves of one sea’ and a song I would now sing and teach to my own children,” says Maryam Fortuna, the brand’s founder.
“Clothing has always been a way to express one’s feelings or to portray a piece of who they are on the inside. And with the social media and photo-centered sharing world we are living in today, there is no doubt that clothing is one of the best ways to spread one’s message. For parents, each photo, each outing with their children is an opportunity to, in a way, show off and spread the messages they hold dear.”
There’s no reason why children, or anyone for that matter, can’t have their ideals represented in the brands that they wear, whether it’s through the advertising or the meaning behind the brand’s name. The rest of the fashion industry just needs to recognize this, too.
Changing the Face of Beauty is one organization working to change the depiction of disabilities in the media. The company was a part of arranging Livie & Luca’s model for their campaign and even helped to get Jamie Brewer on the runway at New York Fashion Week.
“We very much want models with disabilities standing next to their peers being human and not special,” says Katie Driscoll, Changing the Face of Beauty’s president and founder. “We believe the more exposure people with disabilities have the more valued they feel in society.”
While the company hopes to “grow [their] message to more companies that market to adults,” Driscoll mentions that it’s always a pleasure to work with children’s brands.
“We enjoy seeing perceptions changed on every project. Everyone from the photographer, to the brand, to the parents attending. Everyone walks away with a new idea of why it is important that all people are seen.”
Equality in advertising is an important factor for the fashion industry. But, it’s also about more than just the models used to represent the clothing—it’s about the clothing itself.
“Giving children the opportunity at a young age to expand their ideas and open their minds to more than the traditional gender roles of the past is such a gift. As they grow and develop, their perceptions will be more in tune with the whole of humanity,” Fortuna says.
“Plus, my boys love it that they and their girl cousins can all be wearing the same exact tee but still be who they are and wear it in their own special way. My boys also love flowers, and they should be able to wear a shirt that has flowers on it too.”
That’s why brands like OF ONE SEA and the latest GapKids collection with Ellen DeGeneres focus on important messages of equality, from the meaning behind the clothing to the clothing’s neutrality.
“I want to make sure that everyone knows that what makes you different right now, makes you stand out later in life,” DeGeneres said at the Teen Choice Awards. “So you should be proud of being different, you should be proud of who you are.”
It’s this kind of sentiment that these fashion brands are capturing and working to spread. That’s the big idea behind these brands, and the rest of the fashion industry just needs to get with it because, as of right now, they’re being beaten by none other than a bunch of kids.