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Refocused on Fun

The children’s and teen/tween niches may branch out in 2021 as wearers get motivated and energized.

By Jennifer Morrell, Contributing Writer

July 21, 2021

After more than a year living of through the COVID-19 pandemic, apparel suppliers have pivoted where necessary; tried to keep “business as usual” as attainable as possible; and didn’t slow down in efforts to meet trend demands — or the lack thereof — in the childrenswear and teen/tween categories.

“We have seen that a lot of the trends that happened in the adult market, due to COVID, have worked their way down into both tween/teen and childrenswear segments,” says Jennifer Oleksik, design and merchandising manager, LAT Apparel. “Trends include heavy online sales, the rise and fall of different market segments — resort businesses are down, while craft markets are up — and a huge turn toward apparel that is comfortable and practical.”

Amit Gupta, CEO, MONAG Apparel, says simple, basic apparel was preferred by the end user during the pandemic. This included soft, comfortable and durable fabrics, which saw a rise among tot and teen wearers.

“Childrenswear and teen categories saw a decline in trendy styles,” Gupta says. “As we emerge from the pandemic, slowly but surely, the demand is rising. The childrenswear and teen-apparel industry will also start seeing natural progression in demand for variety in style and color that adds to the energized and motivated mood.”

Michael Johnson, director of marketing, HanesBrands Activewear, sees a new emphasis on fun and celebration, leading to a mix of bright and muted colors emerging as favorites this summer and fall.

“As we continue our march toward normalcy, we think this sector will hit the ground running,” Johnson says. “Many kids now have a new appreciation for the activities and events that were put on pause for some 14 months.”

Is Comfort Still King?
“As far as new trends go, I believe color is the big story here,” Oleksik says. “Bright colors and patterns, such as rainbow-colored stripes and tie dye, are taking over the market more than ever before.”

Even so, there’s always a place for comfort. The right fabric and fit are crucial, since children always are on the move.

“We do not see comfort leaving the childrenswear or tween categories,” Gupta says. “It will continue to dominate the market. However, we do expect new styles to evolve that are not only comfortable, but fun to wear or even [those that] stand out.”

Cotton is still the No. 1 fabric for the childrenswear category, including 100% cotton baby rib for the infant market, Oleksik says. Cotton jersey — both 100% and 60/40 blended — is great for all categories. The fabric’s soft hand, easy-to-decorate surface and comfort make it a preferred option for wearers of all ages. Oleksik adds that the 60/40 blend offers visual interest with the polyester heather component.

The Influencers
There always seems to be a parallel between the childrenswear and adult-apparel markets, and manufacturers say this will continue to be the case.

“In the last few years, we have seen childrenswear following the adult-apparel market, where it follows the trendy styles,” Gupta says. “It seems to have continued to follow adult wear, as adult apparel is more focused on all-day comfortable apparel than ever before. There has been an increase in popularity in adult athletic wear, which has resulted in more styles in polyester fabrics. These fabrics have gained momentum in teen [apparel] as well.”

Johnson says teens and tweens, in particular, are influenced by what they see on social media. Therefore, trends will be parallel across markets, from styles and fabrics, to colors and brands worn by their favorite athletes, musicians or TikTokers.

“Champion youth styles, for example, are very popular as kids are drawn to the Champion logo,” he says. “Teens and tweens, like their parents and grandparents, have come to love the warmth and the weight of a classic, oversized Champion sweat shirt.”

Sustainability continues to not only play a role in childrenswear, but also grow in importance in all apparel categories, including teens/tweens. Reduced packaging, sustainable fabrics, factory certifications and energy efficiency are increasingly relevant topics in the apparel world and beyond, Oleksik says.

Johnson agrees. “This younger generation continues to be a force for sustainable living, and continues to press for smart purchases and practices that lessen our negative impact on the planet,” he says.

Fit & Color
Oleksik says oversized apparel has been prevalent in childrenswear. “For childrenswear in general, the fit stays pretty consistent in staple pieces,” she says. “The garment needs to be a perfect combination of a clean, classic fit and comfort. For girls, you will often see a bit of a shorter sleeve or a ruffle detail, but overall, the fit stays pretty consistent in these markets. It’s all about freshening up the offering with fun cut lines, new fabrics, color and decoration.”

Johnson agrees, saying the oversized trend still is the most popular when it comes to fit in youth apparel.

Currently, trending colors range from bright to classic black and white. “With COVID still among us and summer upon us, brights are heavier than ever,” Oleksik says. “Fun patterns, such as stripes and tie dye, are heavily influencing the kids/tweens/teens markets. There also has been a consistent rise in neutral colors, like natural, oatmeal and tan, and ‘neutral patterns’ like fashion camouflage.”

Gupta says to look for the tried-and-true black and white, but also agrees that we’ll see the emergence of fun, bright colors. “Vintage colors are being added as a large selection of the color palette for childrenswear, which was limited to pastel colors,” he says. “There seems to be more and more a liking for gender-neutral colors, and the earth-tone colors are gaining popularity, too, in children’s apparel.”

Johnson says the category will continue to see washes that give a retro feel. “We’ve seen an uptick in our youth ComfortWash styles, as the garment-dyed look, muted pastels and comfy fit hit on several key trends.”

Oleksik says to expect an evolution of patterns and colors in the coming year, with easy-to-wear, fun cut lines that pack lots of visual interest. Gupta predicts gender-neutral colors combined with comfort and a relaxed fit. He also expects to see a growth in popularity of apparel made with 100% polyester.

With these developments, the childrenswear and teen/tween categories continue to be exciting to follow as their evolution continues.

Jennifer Morrell is an award-winning writer who has written for a number of national consumer and trade publications. For more information or to comment on this article, email Jennifer at

An Online Selling Tip

Oleksik says consumer buying patterns already were trending away from traditional brick-and-mortar stores and more toward online purchases, but the COVID-19 pandemic caused even more people to begin shopping online. This trend likely will continue for the foreseeable future.

“This will continue to increase the importance of an online presence for businesses, as well as a thorough communication of the product they are selling,” Oleksik says. “The experience needs to be easy for the consumer and make them comfortable in purchasing an item that they cannot touch or feel prior to buying.”