Samantha Brown – Southeast Asian-based journalist and editor

Kids’ clothes designers in Bali

01.05.2010 (12:00 am) – Filed under: Lifestyle ::

Take Bali’s fledgling textiles industry, stir in a smattering of creative expatriates and skilled local artisans, sprinkle with oodles of beaches-to-smouldering-volcano inspiration: You’ve got yourself a one-stop island shop for beautiful children’s designer clothes.

And while it might be hard work traipsing the tropical streets of Bali to unearth finds from the following labels, the sweetener is you’ll often snare the very same piece for a fraction of the price it will sell on international shelves once it’s exported.

The emphasis is on graphics and colour at the Littlehorn Clothing Company, which boasts two reliably imaginative and offbeat collections for girls, boys and infants a year. The boutique label focuses on lightweight cottons and is just the spot to snap up an unusual blankie for a special bub or a tee for a six-year-old with a touch of rocker attitude. Designer Sean Cosgrove says Littlehorn has “got this handwriting that’s very pop orientated, and it sits in a funny category all of its own.” One of the attractions of Bali for the company, and many others here, is that manufacturers don’t blink an eye when asked to do small fabric runs, allowing the label to easily churn out an array of their distinct prints.

The Clara Mia shop is as tiny and carefully curated as its fabrics are delicate and divine. Anne Jegou takes French vintage clothes as her inspiration, updating sundresses she used to wear as a child unearthed from her grandmother’s cupboard and pieces that belonged to her grandfather. Her boys’ range uses as a starting point pieces that belonged to her late grandfather. “What I’m trying to do is to recreate that classic collection, but with materials that are a little bit more modern,” says French-born Anne, who was raised in North Africa and lived a stint in Shanghai before relocating to Bali to set up her label. Clara Mia’s all-natural fabrics are nearly all sourced from outside Bali, with Anne favouring linens from China, silks from Thailand and cottons from France. If you see a piece you like here, consider buying all you can, as Anne does very few pieces per design: “We’re almost like an atelier,” she says.

At Kidsagogo, think crisp blues and greens for boys, and hot pinks and oranges for girls, swirled with lots of cooling white, geometric batik and bold hand-stitching. Sue Hadinata opened her first store in 1989 after dresses she made herself for her own two little girls got a lot of encouraging comments. “From the moment I opened the shop I just haven’t stopped,” she says, with some 100 tailors now employed to work on the label. Fabrics purchased in Bali are dyed to her own specifications and are augmented with trimmings she picks up on her travels. “I want a very clean, fresh look for children. I like to keep children looking like children,” she says. Their homewares and accessories are a standout too.

They don’t have their own shopfront yet but new entrant Coco and Ginger is a label worth hunting down. Ceramicist-turned-designer Saffron Pugh-Blaby takes inspiration for her girls’ collection from Balinese textiles and the colour that infuses life on the island, from the grandest of ceremonies to the smallest of daily offerings. “My heart lies in colour. I love colour and I find that inspiring, to go into a shop and to be able to pick from a rainbow of beautiful silk batik,” she says. An emphasis on the dreamy and floaty is balanced with bolder hand-embroidered pieces, working well in the tropics as well as with black tights and Mary Janes back in cooler climes. Quilts perfect for little beds as well as cushions are expanding the label.

Dandelion opened to great acclaim among expatriates in mid-2008. Its collections for boys and girls have a clean, smart European look with plenty of mix and match so you may be unable to resist walking out with a whole lot more than you initially intended to buy. “We have to go fresh because we are in a summer country, so it’s a really bright range, but with French styling,” says Gabrielle Morabia, who has shifted from a focus in working in the rag trade for grown ups to little people. “My design has always been very fresh and contemporary, and more on the feminine, girly side, so the look has just translated generally into kidswear,” she says. Shoes have just been added with swimwear to come.

Tuck Shop/The Corner Store Jalan Laksmana 10A, Seminyak

Clara Mia Jalan Laksmana 43, Seminyak

Kidsagogo Jalan Laksmana 29, Seminyak

Coco and Ginger Sold at The Corner Store (above), Be Shop (Pertokoan Seminyak Centre Blok M 75, Jalan Raya Seminyak, Legian), Ayana Resort, Aman resorts and Karma Kandara

Dandelion Jalan Raya Basangkasa 28, Seminyak

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