Not too many styles have the staying power of decades. In the spring of 1989, Baby’O, formerly a children’s clothing company, entered the modest women’s apparel market with its pleated, lightweight denim signature style, the Baby’O Biz Skirt. “People say, ‘I remember that skirt, I wore it as a child,’” said Jack Schemo, founder of the company. “It put us on the map and by the mid 90s it became a staple.”
With ultra-soft fabric, flattering drop-waist yoke and full sweep, which allowed for almost any activity, the Baby’O Biz Skirt quickly became popular as both an everyday women’s skirt and popular girls’ camp skirt. “The skirt is still available to this day,” said Schemo. There are two versions, long and short. Both come in women’s and girls’ sizes, in denim, cotton twill and black slinky fabrics.
Styles introduced by Baby’O that have maintained a continuing level of demand over the years are now included in a “Baby’O Classics” collection: styles that are fashionable, comfortable and practical, yet basic enough to withstand the test of time. Schemo said he has often heard women say that they’re buying the same skirts for their girls that they themselves wore as a child.
In the early spring of 2016, Schemo’s daughter Serina came up with an everyday dress known as the “Baby’O Basic Comfy Dress,” which became a huge hit with women of all ages and tastes, from modern to traditional. “We have heard that women wear it as an everyday dress for leisure, to work, to school functions, to shul, a night out on the town and even as a beach cover-up,” said Schemo. “Priced around $40, it’s no wonder why many women have them in multiple colors and prints, and buy them over and over again.” Shortly after introducing the Comfy Dress, Baby’O developed a collection of layered dresses that look like two pieces, but actually are only one. The style has influenced many other designers and sparked the birth of new fashion companies in the modest-apparel market.
Schemo still does much of the designing for Baby’O, with advice and help from his daughters and professional designers. He also gets quite a bit of feedback from store owners who tell him what customers are buying and what they like—or don’t like. He’s always thinking. “My mind never stops working; I’m always thinking about colors and shapes, and following trends.”
Unlike other companies that work months ahead, Baby’O manufactures domestically and can produce clothes within the season. “Most companies show their spring line in October and November but very often, trends change or something gets hot,” said Schemo. “Sometimes styles come out that may not be successful. I try to react to what has been accepted already.”
Schemo said the company’s philosophy has always been “modest yet fashionable clothes at affordable prices.” On current and up-and-coming trends, Schemo said there seems to be a shift towards brighter colors for Spring/Summer 2020. Animal prints are still going strong, as is Missoni-type prints (an Italian knitwear company known for colorful designs). The acid wash, pigment-dyed, and tie-dye looks also continue to be very popular. Baby’O is developing a pigment-dyed group of tops, skirts and dresses with raw-edge seams that Schemo thinks will be a huge hit. As was with this past fall, jumpers continue to dominate the market. While standard colors are always the biggest sellers—black, navy, gray, khaki—novelty colors move in and out of style for variety. Baby’O has casual dresses in denim and a few with color-block styles. “Black and white is always a great staple,” he said. For the young—and young-at-heart crowd—Baby’O has a large selection of summer and camp skirts.
Baby’O clothes are sold in boutiques catering to observant Jewish women in Brooklyn, Lakewood, Monsey, Passaic, Los Angeles, Miami and Michigan, as well as outside the country in London, Israel, Montreal and Toronto. The complete Baby’O collection is available at www.babyo.com.
By Bracha Schwartz