Girls on the go

Photograph by Pat McGrath

Isabelle Pilon loves nothing better than browsing online for clothes. The savvy shopper likes comfortable, stylish outfits that are colourful and well-made and that she can wear from her early morning swim practices to cross-country running and to school.

The 10-year-old Grade 6 student knows what she wants and she’s all about brands.

“I make $20 a week walking a dog in my neighbourhood at lunch. I save up my money and buy my own clothes. I also won $250 in my brother’s hockey pool.”

Isabelle, who attends Elmdale Public School, used to cruise around lululemon, the high-end ­yoga wear retailer, looking for styles in women’s extra-small sizes.

Now, she and her pals Charlotte Burke, Olivia Hine and Rosie Bleyer are over-the-moon about the recent opening of ivivva athletica, a brand designed by lululemon for tweens using similar fabrics, colours and designs for which the Vancouver-based company is known.

“My daughter always has cash,” laughs Kim Pilon.

“She does jobs so that she can afford to buy things. For young girls, it’s often all about the brand. Ivivva is expensive, but is cheaper than lululemon.”

Isabelle also likes Uggs, tops from Joe Fresh, Garage, Gap and orders items online from Abercrombie Kids. But ivivva is cream of the crop at the moment. The products are primarily sold online in sizes 4-14. While there are eight retail stores in Canada, including one in Oakville, several pop-up stores have opened through the Christmas season, including one at Bayshore Shopping Centre.

Tweens are considered the “I want, I need and have to have” generation. They follow trends by word of mouth, emulating their parents, celebrity magazines, television and the web. Most tweens are tech savvy and often have more than one gadget including cellphones and iPods. They also communicate with their friends in a different way by socializing online through Facebook, Twitter and Skype.

Mike Farrell, a Toronto-based market researcher and contemporary culture expert on youth and young adult trends, is not surprised by the resourcefulness of tweens.

“They are very good at advocating for what they want. Tweens, who are today’s post-millennials, are in the save to spend mode.

“They are very good at identifying the practical reasons why they are going to spend more for a luxury-wear item like lululemon or ivivva because the goods are well-made and will last,” says Farrell of Conversion Internet Marketing Sources.

Andrea Burke stumbled across ivivva while visiting Vancouver a year ago. She says her 10-year-old daughter Charlotte likes to dress in clothes similar to her and is hooked on the company’s colours and fabrics.

“The girls have grown out of Gap clothing, but are still too small to fit into lululemon. Ivivva reflects their lifestyle, fits and is age appropriate. Charlotte receives a lot of the clothing as gifts from relatives.”

Ivivva offers technical apparel for dancers, skaters, gymnasts and athletes, including leotards, tanks, body suits, rhythmic tights, hoodies, fleeces.

“The products are about 30 per cent less than lululemon,” says Jaime Vrieling, assistant manager of the ivivva pop-up store. “The clothes are cross-functional taking a girl from to school to the dance studio.”

A lululemon hoodie is $108 and tank is $50, while an ivivva hoodie is $68 and tank is $26.

Vrieling, who normally works at lululemon’s Westboro location, has been spreading the word about ivivva by meeting with various girls’ teams and bringing in products for them to try on.

“I am making connections through community sports groups. I talk about fabric, colours and the features of the garments. The girls fill out design sheets, which are sent back to the company for the design team to look at. It’s the way to track what girls want.”

The store will become hosting design parties in December and currently runs fitness classes in the mall every Sunday from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. The first class, a hip-hop lesson, was held on Nov. 4 and was attended by 24 children.

Visit their Facebook page for more information.

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