Utterly, an emerging sustainable and ethical children’s apparel brand, was founded in August 2016 by Angela Chou after she struggled to find quality and fashionable clothing for her kids. It competes in the accessible luxury segment within the kidswear market.
The San Francisco-based company designs and manufactures clothing for kids ages five to ten using surplus textiles from US apparel manufacturers. The unique and high-quality fabrics are given to Utterly for no cost and allow it to exist in the kidswear market and compete with other kids fashion brands including Crewcuts (by J. Crew), Ralph Lauren and Kate Spade.
Its first two products were released during the thick of summer 2016: a dress and a shirt. Its assortments are in the US$50-100 range and all of the revenue generated from these two pieces will be put towards developing new products for its full apparel line.
Utterly aims to create a world where children’s fashion choices inspire them to not only look and feel good but also “do good.” Each of their garments incorporates an informative aspect. For instance, their most recent collection has designs that feature endangered species: the Amur dress is dedicated to the Amur leopard, a critically endangered leopard species located in Russia, China and Korea. There are fewer than 60 Amur leopards left in the world. Utterly helps to educate children on the environment by telling the story of the Amur leopard and other species’ on the Utterly website.
Currently, Utterly is selling its products directly to consumers through its website. In five years, Chou envisions the brand expanding its presence to Los Angeles and New York. She also sees the brand opening Utterly recycling stores to collect and resell the brand’s used products. This would not only help reduce the impact of the fast-fashion epidemic, but also provide the brand with more material to use for its clothing.
Global consumers are placing a higher priority on the social and environmental impact of their purchases across generations. In a 2015 Nielson study, 72% of millennials respondents surveyed said they are willing to pay extra for sustainable offerings, up from 55% in 2014. This is an exciting statistic for Utterly and the future of sustainable fashion. Each year, the fashion and apparel industries waste at least 25% of materials; this waste ends up in landfills rather than being recycled or reused. Utterly provides an environmentally conscious alternative by turning these unwanted textiles into children’s clothing.
Before Utterly, most sustainable clothing options for children were aimed at infants or toddlers and were focused on organic materials. Chou had trouble finding sustainable clothing options for her kids once they turned five. Utterly not only uses organic materials, but it also incorporates waste reduction, local sourcing and socially responsible employment into its business plan.
Utterly also promotes sustainable ecosystems by accepting donations from companies such as RxOrganics, Betabrand and Blue Canoe—all of which are environmentally-conscious brands. Because Utterly’s materials rely on donations, it makes clothing in limited quantities (50 pieces are produced for each design). The pieces are also designed so kids can wear them all year long. They give customers ideas on what to pair each item with.
US Market Niche
The childrenswear market is expected to grow by US$1.9 billion dollars by 2020, according to Euromonitor International; it was worth US$29.7 billion in 2015 and is projected to be worth US$31.6 billion by 2020. This market segment is experiencing slow growth due to the falling birth rate and the falling population of children under the age of 14 in the US. There are no major changes expected in these demographics within the next five years, according to Euromonitor International.
However, designer childrenswear is outperforming the overall childrenswear market. The trend is mainly driven by adults dressing their children in “mini me” adult styles and the increasing participation in the designer childrenswear market by adult fashion brands. The designer childrenswear market share has been steadily increasing, growing from 3.8% in 2010 to 4.6% in 2015. These promising numbers are in Utterly’s favor as it enters into the sustainable luxury designer segment of the market.
The US has far fewer sustainable and ethical childrenswear brands than Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Ava & Luc and Boys & Girls, both based in the UK, and Duns of Sweden, are organic and unisex kidswear brands targeting children 0-8 years old. Additionally, there are brands, such as Eternal Creation in Australia and Imps & Elfs in the Netherlands, that only carry clothes from ethical supply chains. Utterly has broken out as one of the premiere sustainable luxury apparel brands for children to fill this niche in the US market.