April 16, 2014, was a red-letter day for Princess Désirée von Hohenlohe, the Brussels-based founder of boutique children’s wear line Les Petites Abeilles. That morning, after having spent the past six months caring for her newborn, Felicity, Von Hohenlohe decided it was high time to catch up on the news, so she clicked to the BBC, where the most-watched video was one showing the Cambridge family’s arrival in Australia. To her great surprise, Prince George was wearing a smocked sailboat romper of Von Hohenlohe’s design, sent as a gift at the suggestion of a friend. “It was a series of funny coincidences,” says Von Hohenlohe. “I didn’t know that the Duchess of Cambridge loves sailing, and of course sailing was very appropriate for New Zealand.” [The little prince wore the outfit twice.] And “on the same trip 30 years earlier, Prince William had been wearing something very similar,” added the designer.
This was very big news for a very small label with only a Facebook page. But first, there was drama. “It was a bit of a long story afterward to get the record right,” explains Von Hohenlohe, “because someone else claimed it was their design and even gave an interview to The New York Times.” A printed correction finally brought attention to the brand and set it on an expansion wave. The media coverage “gave us the energy to have a proper collection as such,” says the designer, “but keep in mind that it’s still me and my husband and several ateliers working on [the line] and no one else, except an accountant.”
Les Petites Abeilles was founded in Von Hohenlohe’s living room in 2013 when the sometime government worker was unable to find the sort of baby gifts she wanted to give her friends. At the time, many children’s wear lines were focusing on dressing kids like mini adults in edgy, street-inspired trends; Von Hohenlohe instead applied a vintage touch to her work, which might be described as patrician children’s wear. Featuring Peter Pan collars, hand smocking, and simple lines, pieces from Les Petites Abeilles look like they might have been inspired by old-fashioned storybooks. “I wanted something a bit special and personalized . . . something sweet [and] handmade,” says Von Hohenlohe, who soon discovered that there was a high demand for these classic designs.
Though it’s now gaining traction, this traditional approach to children’s wear was rare when Les Petites Abeilles launched. Von Hohenlohe attributes the style’s growing appeal to several factors, like fashion cycles and nostalgia spurred by a sense that kids grow up faster these days. “You can’t dress your children in this innocent, childish way for a long time,” she says, “and so I thought that during the ages when you can, you should take advantage, before they have a say.” One very important person who seems to agree with her is Kate Middleton, the prime mover of the trend.
Now the brand’s first collaboration is set to give that trend legs. Launching March 29 exclusively on Yoox, Les Petites Abeilles x Yoox is a collection of casual but chic kids’ clothing inspired by sports ($40 to $127). Distinct from the special-occasion looks that are Von Hohenlohe’s signature, the line is organized into four main groups: sailing, featuring stripes; hiking, inspired by safaris and her childhood in Africa; swimming, including matching sets; and paddle tennis, in which tennis whites are enlivened with a dash of red. The last is particularly personal to Von Hohenlohe; the designer’s father, the late Prince Alfonso of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, introduced paddle tennis to Europe in 1975 at his famous Marbella Club in Spain.
“My father wanted everything to be chic but informal at the same time,” Von Hohenlohe says. “He had this idea that you would go to the beach and play a little bit of paddle tennis and then have a drink—jump from one activity to another—and this inspired me for this Yoox collection, as well. It’s not only technicalwear; you can wear it whenever—whether you do sports or not.” In other words: For kids and style-conscious parents alike, it’s a win-win.
Source: vogue com
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