Designing Coats for Kids: Insights from the Experts


At Operation Warm, we know that we provide more than a coat to children in need. Our goal is to give a garment that is durable and can withstand harsh winter temperatures, but we also want that garment to be beautiful. When we design our winter coats, color is one of the most important elements. Children especially have strong opinions about their favorite colors. That is why we take our time researching trends to determine our coat colors each and every season.

This season we reached out to a few color experts who did some incredible research that helped shape next seasons coat color selections. We tapped experts at two organizations: Andrea Magno, Color and Design Expert at Benjamin Moore, as well as Seth Olson, Travis Cannon, and Natasha Knight from Hollister Co. They shared insights into their research process as well as their thoughts on why color matters to kids.

Where does inspiration come from?

When it comes to selecting colors for any medium, research is crucial. We learned that inspiration can come from anywhere.

Andrea Magno shared that traveling is crucial to her team’s color research process. “There’s a team of us,” Magno explained. “We divide and conquer in our travel. We take thousands and thousands of pictures of anything that catches our eye. We’re always checking out what’s happening in retail and fashion, the car industry, as well as what’s happening socially and culturally. We bring everything back to the office and we’ll have an array of findings to work from. We synthesize and figure out, what are the important colors for paint? In this instance [thinking about coats for kids], I thought about colors in some of our research that are cool and would be great for a jacket as opposed to paint being applied to a wall. It’s about taking a look at the research through the filter of what’s right for the audience.”

Seth Olson, Designer at Hollister Co., also stressed the importance of being tapped into the internet and social media. Children begin developing their personal tastes in clothing earlier than ever. “Research is really an everyday process,” Olson said. “For guys in particular, it’s trying to stay in tune with what’s cool for them. We look at social media influencers. Whether that’s Justin Bieber, LeBron James, or Kanye West, we watch those influential celebrities that guys are really paying attention to. We look at what they’re wearing, what they’re posting about. More and more it’s become about influencers because of how big social media is to our customer.”

The Impact of the Influencers and Social Media

Today, children have access to information via the internet. The things they see will often contribute to their taste in clothing.

“Younger children are exposed to more than ever before,” Cannon said. “They’re on YouTube and the internet. They’re less in a bubble and have more opportunity to find things they like.”

The internet has placed the entirety of popular culture at our fingertips. At a young age, children begin to gravitate toward certain trends based on the media they consume.

Magno shared what influences her children, “They’ll be watching these sports-related things, and they will pick up ideas from that. ‘Oh I want my hair to be that way.’ ‘I want that shirt.’ All kids are sponges and they’re taking all of this in. They’re not consciously doing it, but I think they’re looking at all of these different things, whether its video games or movies or whatever and interpreting it in a way that works for them. That’s how they develop their own tastes. It’s the process of kids figuring out how they want to express themselves and their personality. Determining what colors resonate with them.”

Color is an expression of who we are. Every garment we put on we tell those around us a story. Wearing a shirt with a sports team logo on the chest lets people know you’re a fan. Putting formal wear for a job interview lets the company know that you are taking the opportunity seriously. These things are not always consciously done, however, we make decisions on our clothing to show the world who we are and what we are about. To the design experts we interviewed, the sweet spot for fashion is where design and functionality merge.

Where Do Design and Functionality Meet?

It’s wonderful if a garment is beautiful or cool, but for kids especially, clothing needs to be functional and durable.

Magno stressed the fact that great clothing is timeless. “It’s got to have some longevity,” she said. “You don’t want to wear something that you’re going to get sick of after wearing it three times.”

Olson agreed that outerwear pieces need to be functional. He spoke about how for boys, the best outerwear pieces will match many outfits. “It’s the whole outfit mentality, he explained. “It has been happening for a while on the girls’ side and more and more on the guys’ side now. They’re thinking about their outfits instead of a single piece… They want something that is very easy to wear as a second layer that’s going to go with whatever else they are wearing. For us, we experiment a little with brighter colors, but the majority of what we’re doing is focusing on what will complement those brighter colors. What we’re doing is creating pieces that guys can wear on a daily basis.”

At Operation Warm, we believe that our coats can inspire confidence in children because they can give them the ability to play outside in the winter with their friends. We also see that our coats tap into the excitement that comes with getting a garment that is new and fashionable. Color matters to kids. That’s why we take the time to design our coats according to the colors that spark joy in children.

Interested in aligning your organization with Operation Warm’s mission to provide warmth, confidence and hope to children in need?  Learn more about our corporate partnership opportunities.


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