People who work at Kate Quinn, a fashion brand that specializes in clothing for kids and babies, say their favorite thing to do is hide under their desk when a new collection goes on sale.
You’re joking, but not really.
On drop days, staff are inundated with woven orders for the latest ruffled onesie, tiny cardigans and fluffy swaddle blankets. With a new collection often selling out in minutes, a thriving resale market erupts on sites like Mercari and Facebook Marketplace, where Kate Quinn clothing and accessories fetch multiples of original retail prices.
Rachel Red-Horse, a teacher in Hawaii who discovered Kate Quinn a few years ago, said shopping has become a retail blood sport for her two young children. “It’s all about who has the fastest internet,” she said.
Thriving online markets typify things like Supreme Box logo sweatshirts and Hermès handbags, not baby clothes. But for some parents, Kate Quinn is hard to resist. On social media, fans of the brand have formed groups to show off their swag, complain about what they can’t get and unite over their attempts to resist another shopping spree.
Ms. Red-Horse and other parents interviewed for this article praised the quality and sophistication of the designs and highlighted the brand’s emphasis on organic cotton and bamboo. And unlike the garish or utilitarian stuff sold by other baby clothing companies — pink for girls, light blue for boys — Kate Quinn’s offering includes sophisticated items like ruched-bottom leggings with a garnet wisteria pattern, and tops that tie in Gender-neutral shades are available with special names (“Twilight Mauve”, “Pearwood”, “Honey Bee”, “Thyme”, “Graphite”, etc.).
When a collection is published, Ms Red-Horse, 27, says she usually signs up immediately and is quick to click what she wants. A crucial point comes at the checkout: if she’s not quick enough, she risks being “cart-jacked” — that is, watching in horror as her selection disappears from her cart when another shopper beats her into paying.
Ms Red-Horse said she got a glimpse of the secondary market for everything Kate Quinn-related when she was looking for a particular cheat sheet featuring a whale footprint. After finding out it was sold out on the brand’s website, she made an inquiry to a buy/sell/trade group and was soon bombarded with baby flippers.
“I’ve had people offer me things for $70 when they retail for $40,” Ms. Red-Horse said. “Another mother said, ‘I bought two sleeping bags for $800 with this print on them.’ They cost $45 brand new!”
Kate Quinn is not an overnight sensation. The company started in 2006 when the eponymous founder began selling kimono-inspired wrap-around rompers on Craigslist. At that time Mrs. Quinn had no children. Her experience in the apparel industry was minimal – a year at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in Los Angeles and some time as a wardrobe stylist for photo shoots.
Her brand got a boost when Nordstrom and some upscale children’s clothing boutiques started stocking her. Things really took off in 2018 when Ms. Quinn decided to sell direct to customers online, which enabled her to cut prices in half. Instead of offering new designs for each season, she began releasing limited themed collections that were released as drops.
Ms. Quinn, 44, who now has two children and lives north of Seattle, said her love of vintage wallpaper and luxurious interiors influenced her designs more than fashion. And she counts herself among those who are amazed by the frenzy for her products.
She found that one of her most popular items, Kate Quinn quilts, didn’t sell very well at first. “It makes everyone want a quilt,” she said. “People sent us pictures of quilts at Mercari for $800. It was shocking.”
Over the past two years, her company has strengthened its website and hired dozens of employees while dealing with pandemic-related supply chain issues and closures at its factory in India. It has also limited the number of quilts a customer can purchase, while quadrupling the range of popular items such as ballerina bubbles, a bodysuit with side skirts.
The measures were not quite enough to curb the frenzy. “During the pandemic, we really took care of our lives,” said Paul Weinstein, the brand’s chief operating officer.
Ms. Quinn said she has no plans to slow down the drops either. Rather than making more of popular older styles, the company releases nearly 50 collections a year, she said. Ms. Quinn said of her clients, “I think they’d rather be excited about something new.”
Some of the brand’s loyalists get disappointed, even angry, when they can’t buy what they want. Ms Quinn said she decided to leave Facebook after some customers posted personal information about herself and her family, including her home address. In a guarded tone, she said, “It got a bit violent when customers couldn’t buy their bubble or quilt of choice.”
Rachel Semple, a 27-year-old mother-of-one, said the low prices and flow of new styles helped fuel what she described as a “FOMO shopping craze” for Kate Quinn products.
“It’s weird,” she said. “But it’s crazy. It’s the way people live.”
Ms. Semple, a third-grade teacher in Knoxville, Tenn., added that she’s given up buying prints that are in high demand, like the beluga whale pattern that appeared on pants, sweaters and quilts last year . “I find the ugly pressure nobody wants just because it’s not stressful,” she said.
And Kate Quinn seems to be holding up its value.
“I can make $200 a night doing a Purge,” said another fan of the brand, Tayler Landry, 29, who lives in Michigan and has a young daughter. Someone offered her $250 for a small body suit, an offer Ms. Landry declined because she felt uncomfortable doing it, she said.
Many of Kate Quinn’s buyers are new moms, and the brand is becoming an integral part of the life-changing event of becoming parents. Some followers enter online camouflage contests and post photos of their offspring in a patterned Kate Quinn bodysuit while lying on a matching Kate Quinn blanket. (Where’s the baby?)
Chermae Peel, 40, a college administrator and mother of three in West Texas, said she met three mothers whose daughters were born at the same time as hers on a website dedicated to Kate Quinn fans. “We took photos and made a collage,” she said. “That was Kate Quinn to me. It brought all the mothers together.”
“It was clothing,” continued Mrs. Peel, “but more than that, it was friendship.”
The brand began expanding into womenswear, menswear and more recently into the tween category over the past two years. Now the whole family can fit together.
For anyone caught up in the Kate Quinn shopping frenzy, Ms Peel had some advice: stay calm. And be patient.
“My daughter loves elephants,” she said. “I wanted a quilt. Well, someone sold an elephant blanket in a buy-sell-trade group. In fact, I waited and was able to get the quilt. We survived.”