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Designer Spotlight : Bright 'Rags' Enrich Children's Wardrobes


Anyone who has ever shopped for baby clothes can probably relate to the frustration Barbara Godfrey experienced when she searched for unusual and inexpensive items for her two sisters' babies-to-be.

Most of the clothes she saw were sailor style or starched and frilly, so Godfrey initiated Rag Baby, her own children's clothing line, this year. So far, sweet success is showing that others are looking for hip outfits for children ages 3 months to 7 years.

Barbara, 27, and husband, Alan, 31, conceived the concept for Rag Baby even before they married in late 1990. But not until early this summer did they set up shop in an outdoor kiosk in the Robinson's courtyard in Fashion Island Newport Beach.

Rag Baby's first stock sold out immediately.

"So much of baby clothes is traditional," Alan Godfrey says. "We feel what we're doing is the cutting edge of baby clothes. They are a reflection of beach mentality, of casual living."

Rag Baby clothes appear in the brightest hues.

Boxy rompers, shorts, pants, prairie dresses and overalls make up much of the colorful 22-piece collection ($12.50-$42), which also includes backpacks, fanny packs, floppy hats and headbands.

Print also serves an integral element in Barbara Godfrey's designs. "The prints carry the line," she says.

The best-selling prints feature creatures, such as pigs, turtles, starfish, geckos and fish.

She encourages wearers to mix prints, but keep the same color theme. To that end, she has designed tees and a reversible jacket using a patchwork of prints.

The printed fabrics and finished clothes, made of 100% cotton sheeting and jersey knits, are manufactured in Indonesia. To get the cookie-cutter prints, the Batik process is used, which involves using solid sheet of fabric and dying over wax shapes. A bit of wax left on the fabric gives it a distinct touch.

The dyes are natural and environmentally sensitive, she says.

"I think kids hate to wear tight clothes," she says, referring to her roomy silhouettes.

Barbara Godfrey's longtime interest in fashion was nourished while modeling for five years in Europe and Japan. At 23, she started a junior line called Best Boys, and orders from Macy's and Nordstrom indicated the line had potential, but the business fell apart due to her lack of business experience. She also designed for Ocean Pacific's snow board and ski wear divisions and Asics Tiger.

The business know-how came from her husband, a born entrepreneur who at 14 started selling table Ping-Pong machines to bars in Newport Beach and continued in high school with a car detailing business. He is now a real estate broker.

The couple have set their sights on mail-order business and other retail outlets. And Barbara Godfrey is taking the idea of "expansion plans" literally by designing larger sizes. Although she did not plan to make clothes for children older than 7, she's had requests to clothe kids up to 11 and even their mothers.

A mommy-and-me line is in the prototype stages, and Barbara Godfrey, who is four months pregnant with her first child, figures she will serve as her best test model for the new designs.

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