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How Munich Store WHAT A PETIT is Changing the Kids’ Streetwear Game

While children’s streetwear has proliferated the market in recent months, there remain few stores entirely dedicated to children’s streetwear. KITH recently opened a KIDSET store in Manhattan and children’s streetwear brand Little Giants | Giant Shorties operates a storefront in Brooklyn, but WHAT A PETIT is one of the rare multi-brand boutiques for parents to discover new pieces. And, similar to established adult streetwear stores like Union LA, WHAT A PETIT also mixes in upscale designers like Comme des Garçons and Ralph Lauren alongside sneakers.

As both activewear and sportswear continue to gain momentum, WGSN and hypekids have teamed up to get to know the owner of WHAT A PETIT, Atith Kotsombat, to talk his brand, gender-neutral clothing and the future of kidswear. 

WHAT A PETIT has an online shop and brick-and-mortar presence in Munich, Germany where the focus is on premium streetwear for kids. Vans, AKID, adidas and Stone Island are some of the hot brands they carry in sizes ranging from 0-12 years old. Those who can’t visit the Munich store in person need only take one look at WHAT A PETIT’s Instagram to get inspired.

When did you decide to launch a kids’ streetwear store and why?

Before we finally decided to kick things off back in 2016, we had already taken some good notes in preparation. As a strategic purchasing manager for the past five years at kickz.com, I was surprised when sales in the kids category constantly rose without us really focusing or making targeted marketing investments in this space. From that point on, I saw great potential in the market and kept asking myself-what’s going happen when you put this thing (retail for kids streetwear) on its own dedicated platform?

A little later my step-son came into my life and from then on, I was always on the lookout for cool clothes, sneakers and (heritage) streetwear brands for him. I noticed how difficult it was to find what I was looking for. On the one hand you have the vertical retailers where you can buy cheap/affordable stuff in an ok quality for daily wear, or you go all the way to the luxury/fair-trade/organic route where you need a good amount of cash. Something in between was really missing. Therefore, it was time for us to close the gap.

Where did the name ‘What a Petit’ come from?

Probably the best idea I’ve ever had… haha (just kidding)! In fact, I was inspired by Nike‘s “What the …” concept and the speech of “what a pity” and just replaced the last word. Being a fan of the French language, I felt that was the right name for us. WHAT A PETIT is the simple translation for “What a cool (little) kid.”

Do you see streetwear as a short-term trend for kids or an ongoing and evolving movement?

As streetwear is massively mainstream now and (more or less) a basic need of modern society, I think it became established and is not short-lived. The same applies to kidswear since parents, especially those with a fashion-conscious mindset, are responsible for their children’s wardrobe when they are young. Kids who are already taking their own buying decisions and manage their own money are among other things, overwhelmingly led by social media outlets. Social media is increasingly becoming an important tool for fashion and ensuring further growth of the movement.

What do you think of the “mini-me” trend in children’s clothing that mimics existing adults’ fashion? Do you find this trend to be prevalent in streetwear brands as well?

I like the development and for us it’s nice to prove that streetwear and fashion is for everyone. Being able to dress up like my son or going out with “the gang“ in the same clothes or sneakers is fun and cool at the same time.

From a footwear perspective, we’ve always seen a lot of styles for the full family while “mini-me“ collections or products on a apparel side weren’t really a thing. These days, there are a couple of good brands that offer mini-me items in their range, which fit the street style look. For example Stone Island, Patagonia, Champion or BAPE.

Are you a fan of kid influencers on Instagram? If so who are favourite influencers and why?

Kids and the internet is still a thing I do not really feel comfortable with. For retailers like us who are trying to put the right bricks on the market and being known as a kids specialist, using Instagram and the energy of the appropriate influencers are important as long as it is being used the right way. It’s good to be able to have digital outlets, to speak directly to our customers, react to their needs and inspire more parents/people in a quick way. We haven’t really done much pure kids influencer research yet but we love the whole Stranger Things squad. Seza from Germany is a really cool kid, while Zooey Miyoshi and Coco are definitely some of our favorite girls.

How do you think the rise of celebrity kids has influenced kids’ fashion?

They are very close to our target group and clearly have a big impact. Our goal is to be the hub.

It has always been like that as a child. You always looked up to your teenage stars more than keeping an eye to the grown-ups. At the end of the day, it’s about living in an internet society/culture, which makes fashion easily accessible and even more important. It’s for everyone and starts earlier than ever these days.

Do you find consumers in Germany accepting of gender-neutral kids apparel and footwear?  Do you think it’s better or more difficult than in America and why?

Germany is always late on adopting certain trends. I feel that it still has something to do with the generally conservative attitude. You can’t compare it with America, because the “unisex mentality” has always been deeply rooted in their fashion culture. Nevertheless, I see great progress in the direction that we (Germany) can find a better connection to the global fashion development.

Building a gender neutral assortment is a key strategy for us because we want to be known by the cool kids out in the world. And coolness has no gender. At least that’s how we feel when we’re talking about children.

How do you see your in-progress brick and mortar store complimenting your online presence?  Will you look to the latest in in-store experiences, VR and AR dressing rooms, or stick to a more traditional format?

Our physical store completes our platform. It is part of our strategy and an essential element for a successful retail business. We will tackle it more traditionally and use the shop for in-store events and to on-board strategic brands along with exclusive/limited products.

Will ‘What a Petit’ delve into other kids categories outside of kids streetwear? Any plans for expansion for 2018 you can share?

Absolutely. It’s really important for us not only to sell clothes and shoes and expand where possible. Being known as a concept store, offering different categories of goods and bringing fresh air into the market is our goal.

Skincare, toy and books are next in line. It is really important for us to be more than just a retailer. I want to use WHAT A PETIT to accompany our consumers and children on their journey, to inspire them and to be part of their education.

For 2018 we are focusing on the online market and having a bunch of great collaborations coming up. You guys will love it, I promise! Besides that, we are also preparing the next round of financing to push ahead with expansion.

What are some recent brand or collection launches that you’ve been most excited about?

For me it’s really cool to see that many of the major sportswear brands are scaling down to exclusive/limited footwear releases for the little ones such as the Puma x Diamond Supply Co. collaboration.

The Polo Bear Cruise collection by Ralph Lauren and the new Stone Island SS18 drop for kids really got my attention. Seeing it from the current order season for FW18, I’m really excited about the Chloé collection for the girls as we’ll see some cool, cozy and retro inspired pieces.

Is Munich a good place for designers to find kidswear inspiration from stores, art exhibits, culture? Where should people be checking out?

From a pure kids design perspective, Munich is not the ideal city to draw inspiration for fashion.

But Munich / Bavaria, and Germany in general, is a good place to develop a sense for traditional fashion.  This can also have positive influences in fashion and its culture with leather, special garments, manufacture, craftsmanship, love of detail, architecture, precision etc.. Other than that, we have great neighborhoods here like Maxvorstadt to keep an eye on for modern youth and fashion culture in Munich.

Any new movements you are tracking that you personally see inspiring new kids streetwear, or trends you expect to see for 2018?

I see the gender-neutral trend and the lil’ boyfriend look coming in strong. This is where we come into play as it’s an essential part of our strategy. Sport X fashion will become even more popular with the kids and we will see more related and simple products in the whole look such as hoodies, crewnecks and denim jackets. Heritage & luxury brands are increasingly in demand, the same evolution as we are seeing in adults.

Apart from that, we also believe that styling will look a bit more primitive, provocative and edgy going forward.

For more on kidswear, from trends to trade shows – head to the Kidswear section on WGSN.

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