Hipster baby movement
Generation X moms put new spin on wear for tots
Let's call it the Hipster Baby Movement. An increasing number of young artists have turned their creative attention toward all things baby. Japanese-inspired baby shoes, burp rags with retro cowboy designs and bibs decorated with hot dogs and bowling pins are just some of their imaginative creations.
Norah Utley, of Berwyn, is the artistic mind behind Sheriff Peanut. She started her company in 2003 and began selling handmade baby gear about a year later. Since then, she has seen a surge of artists making baby clothes and toys.
"You see people making onesies, and they're making money so then others start making onesies," Utley said of the popular infant under garments.
She sells her creations online, at trendy baby stores and hipster craft fairs. These aren't your grandma's craft fairs at center court in the mall. The crowd here is more pierced than pruned. And, you're far more likely to find someone selling a skeleton necklace than a wooden Santa.
Utley attends plenty of these shows and believes Generation X parents are driving the movement. Disenchanted kids who once wore combat boots and inappropriate T-shirts to high school now are having babies and looking to dress them in a way that sets them apart, she said.
Rebecca Kowalkowski, of Chicago's North Side, also sells baby goods to young parents at these funky fairs. She specializes in vintage-style baby clothes and accessories through her company, Lily Sky Designs. The company is named for her daughter.
"With Old Navy and Target, everyone has the same clothes. A lot of moms want some unique clothes, something that someone else doesn't have," Kowalkowski said.
Her handmade bibs cost $9. The designs include a black-and-white bib with human skulls and a bib that looks like the wall of a 1930s tattoo parlor featuring retro mermaids, roses and bannered hearts.
"You just don't want all blue things or pink things. You want to inspire your kids with all different sorts of colors and designs," Kowalkowski said.
She first noticed the baby movement while working as assistant creative director at Vidal Sassoon. The job occasionally took her to London, where she would browse handmade markets for children's clothes in her free time.
"Every time I went, I was able to get a really cool pair of shoes or a really cool shirt," Kowalkowski said.
The overwhelming feedback to her euro baby clothes inspired the creation of Lily Sky 21/2 years ago. Kowalkowski dropped out of the corporate to world to raise her daughter and focus on her own line of baby wear.
Baby stuff is big right now, but Utley has been to too many of these Gen X craft fairs. She smells a fad.
"When I first started doing this, everyone had purses and handbags. Then everyone realized that everyone else was doing that and it all stopped," Utley said.
That's the other thing about my generation; as soon as something gets hot, it's no longer cool.
Howard Ludwig is a former SouthtownStar business writer who traded his reporter's notebook for a diaper bag, becoming a stay-at-home dad. He can be reached at email@example.com.