I was recently interviewed for a news story around the launch of tween (8-14-year-old) fashion online retailer WannabeMe and the impact this demographic has on the Australian fashion market.

Amid tales of the struggling retail climate and Australian designers going under, savvy retailers are cluing in to the spending power of tween girls – estimated at $4 billion+ each year in Australia alone. WannabeMe is the latest example and serves this market very well with a clever site featuring girls and boys’ fashion, accessories and even fun decor for their rooms. A ‘style ambassadors’ feature girls profiles which share their favourite pieces and inspiration.

“We want to inspire Australian tweens to find their own style with a hand-picked range of trendy, quality and age-appropriate designs, so parents can rest assured their kids will look great but not too grown up,” says WannabeMe creator Andrea Dowling.

“From punk to princess, hippie to preppy, we offer every tween a range of the latest looks. We encourage them to mix-and-match, explore and dream big!”

Tween fashion is certainly a lucrative but tricky market to capture. Fashion retailer Witchery last year launched its 8Fourteen range for tween girls and came under fire for its campaign that featured two girls aged 11 and 12 modelling alongside Australia’s Next Top Model’s Montana Cox. The campaign may have been a little too mature for the demographic but the clothes really aren’t. The messaging is a tricky one to get right.

There is a common misunderstanding that Tween clothes created either by chain stores Witchery, Forever New, Cotton On and the like sexualise young girls, but when you look at things closely, that’s rarely the case. Even Country Road starts at a size 4 in their womenswear line which is minute when we’re talking about women’s sizes but standard in equivalent to a girl’s 12-14 and I’d defy anyone to pick out a piece of Country Road clothing that wasn’t appropriate for that age group.

Young girls (and boys) are interested in how they look. It doesn’t have to mean anything sinister, in fact as far back as I can remember I’ve always loved to play dress-ups, only now I get to do it for a job. The fact young girls are taking an interest in their appearance through fashion really just sets them on a path to discover their style, and their sense of self – something even women in their 40s and 50s I style on a regular basis sometimes struggle with. Any site that promotes self-expression and fun with fashion is aok with me.