Apparel

“It was kind of an accident”: How kids’ overalls company Hey Gang expanded to adults

Women’s wear now makes up 60% of its sales.
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Hey Gang

· 4 min read

Plenty of women’s apparel companies go small when they want to grow their business and end up expanding into children’s clothing. Reformation makes matching mommy-daughter sets, as does Hill House Home. What’s rarer is a kids’ brand going big and making outfits for adults.

Say hi: Hey Gang specializes in coveralls and overalls for babies and children, but recently, the company introduced its classic onesies for women.

“It was kind of an accident,” founder Lauren Block told Retail Brew. After 20 years in the fashion industry—as a store owner, a buyer, and now a designer—she founded Hey Gang in 2018 after having a baby. “I wanted cute and interesting kids’ clothes that were actually functional...and then I wanted them for myself.”

In the brand’s second season, she rolled out women’s coveralls in three different colors. But the line really took off in the spring of 2020, just as the pandemic hit, when Block debuted Hey Gang’s natural women’s overalls. A few influential Insta followers picked up the product and made it go viral. “I kept constantly selling out. I couldn’t do ads because I didn’t have the inventory,” she said. Now, she says women’s wear makes up 60% of Hey Gang’s sales. (Block declined to share specific figures.)

  • For this fall, Block ordered the same number of units for Hey Gang’s women’s collection as its kids’: 5,000.

Beyond moms: It’s not just moms buying Block’s clothes, and that’s by design. Children’s clothes and women’s wear are two different marketing ball games, so it’s been a delicate balancing act.

“You’re taking something that is presently marketed for a child, and now turning it into something that an adult would want to buy...that could be challenging,” Kearney’s consumer practice partner Brian Ehrig noted.

Block avoids your typical “mommy and me” imagery. She’ll occasionally shoot a mother and child together, but prefers a woman on her own. “I didn’t want it to be mom-specific...that would limit my audience. I learned that it needs to be two separate things,” she said. “In order for it to be successful, the category needs to be able to stand on its own.”

Goodbye, Texas

Marketing clothes for kids versus adults has its complications, but making the clothes is another story. Based in Texas, Block began designing and producing everything in Dallas (aside from t-shirts and sweatshirts) with three small factories. Once she started experimenting with women’s clothing—“especially jeans, they’re so specific”—she decided to move most of the operation to Los Angeles, where she could find a greater variety of manufacturing methods.

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“I have a lot more flexibility with what I can do. Like on my military pants, I wanted a triple needle stitch on the side. In Dallas, they didn’t have those machines,” Block said.

But it’s come with a price, literally. “It’s more expensive to produce in LA, period,” she told us, but added it’s also elevated the quality of the pieces.

  • Hey Gang’s price tag for women’s wear has climbed about 15% to 20% on average since moving its production. Meanwhile, the children’s chore coat pricing has risen 44%, from $68 (pre-LA) to $98 now.
Hey Gang overalls for kids

Hey Gang

The right fit: Kids’ and women’s bodies require different fitting processes and manufacturing techniques, different pattern makers, sometimes different denim suppliers, and different factories. “That means [brands] have to develop a whole new supply chain effectively,” Kearney’s Ehrig said.

  • The buying cycles for children’s and women’s wear also run on different clocks, he added. The former is fueled more by seasonality, the latter by fashion.

Block said her production process is completely different in LA than it was in Dallas—new people, new factories, new schedules. For one, she had to develop different designs based on original patterns. “Pattern makers work differently. That was tough because it was a whole new sampling process, even for older styles,” Block admitted. “It was almost like starting from scratch. We had to recreate everything.”

  • The processes now take longer, as Block bakes in time to test fabrics for shrinkage, adjust patterns, and fix sizing issues.

Expansion pack: For Hey Gang’s next trick, the brand will roll out a unisex line. Block has received a lot of requests for men’s pants and overalls, so this new collection will further gauge interest.

When a company builds beyond its core product, Ehrig said, it’s important to understand what and who drives the brand. “It’s the natural evolution of a business, because you need to find growth at a certain point,” he explained. “A lot of companies start off doing one thing really well, then they need to find out the second, third, fourth, and fifth things.”

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