DVF starts courting them young at Gap

SAMANTHA CRITCHELL AP Fashion Writer Published:

NEW YORK (AP) -- Today's little girls are probably the wrap-dress wearers of the future, so why not just start them young?

Gap tapped Diane von Furstenberg, who has built her business on easy-to-wear, cheerful wrap dresses, for a limited-edition girls collection that arrives in U.S. stores next week.

It's another designer label for the kids' closet, joining the likes of Gucci, Stella McCartney and Burberry.

When first approached by Gap, however, von Furstenberg said no. "I always thought I didn't want to do children's clothes," von Furstenberg said in a telephone interview. "I did do a little in the '70s, but I stopped because I wanted girls to take their time to grow up to be women."

But then she thought about taking colors and prints, and making them stylish in an age-appropriate way. She is pleased with the results, describing the wrap rompers, T-shirt dresses, capri leggings and other items as the right balance of fun and practicality, she said.

Von Furstenberg was the right partner to go after, said Art Peck, president of Gap North America. She's surefire buzz and fashion credibility, he said.

Although he joined the company after the project was in the works, he said she would have been at the top of his list, too, because both brands aim for a straightforward style instead of garments that are fussy or uncomfortable. Gap is looking to get back to its roots after some years of declining sales.

"Diane von Furstenberg has a successful women's business and she didn't want to compete with that, but kids was new to her, and she has grandchildren," Peck said. "A 5-year-old doesn't know Diane von Furstenberg but mom certainly does."

Gap previously collaborated with McCartney on kids' clothes, and Peck said more deals might come sooner rather than later. "There are a number of irons in the fire."

There's something to be said for building brand loyalty young, he explained. "I'd like to get them as Gap customers the moment they come out of the hospital as a baby and stay with us the rest of their lives."