Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What kind of mum tries to buy a child's love with a £1,300 designer coat?


Heels and handbags: Suri Cruise, four, often wears designer clothes. Her famous parents, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, believe the mini-queen of fashion should wear 'whatever she wants'

The silky jacket with the over-sized red and white print is exquisite. You could dress it down with jeans and flats but it would also be perfect for a Christmas party.

Obviously the £579 price tag is a bit of a hurdle . . . and the fact that you’d have to be tiny to get into it. It’s a four after all. An age four, that is.

The jacket in question is part of D&G Junior’s Autumn/Winter 2010-2011 collection, which also features a black fur coat for a little girl priced at £1,300.

What are the designers expecting a four-year-old to get up to in a £1,300 fur coat? Well, if their online ad is anything to go by, the child will be frolicking among piles of chocolate, candy canes and lollipops.

Personally, as the mother of a four-year-old and a two-year-old, I’d suggest that a child with a lolly should be kept several furlongs from anything made of fur. And, in fact, from any item of clothing costing more than a tenner.

But it appears that, with the demand for designer childrenswear higher than ever before, many parents are prepared to brave the potentially catastrophic mix of small children and high fashion.

The latest designer to bid for a share of the extremely lucrative childrenswear market (now estimated to be worth in excess of £4billion) is Stella McCartney.

Like mother like son: Victoria Beckham has obviously passed on her love of clothes to her eldest son, Brooklyn

Her new children’s range, as you might expect from a woman famous for her unpretentious attitude to fashion, features designs that have a ring of practicality about them. All pretty florals and muted berry tones. Everything washable. And, of course, no fur or leather.

But while the designs might be down to earth, the same cannot be said of the price tags.

Fashion editors will argue loudly that the range starts from just £14. Yes, but that’s for a baby’s T-shirt! You can have three of those for £10 in Mothercare. And from the £14 baby T-shirt we’re quickly up to £105 for a children’s wool-blend military jacket (Mothercare don’t do those, so I’m unable to bring you a price comparison).

Which begs the question, why is Stella McCartney doing them? What happened to throwing on the most comfortable/water resistant/least obviously sullied item of clothing and then spending the extra time (and money) doing the things that children really like doing?

Things that are not enhanced by adults frantically sponging yoghurt from the cashmere blend or fretting lest the sleeve of the military jacket be buried in the sandpit/fed to the hamster/painted orange.

And, if you think Stella may have lost touch with reality slightly, brace yourselves, because her offerings are sober in comparison to some of her fellow designers.

Down the road from her Bruton Street store in London is the children’s department of Harrods, which — at 11am on a rainy Thursday morning — is already buzzing with beautiful mummies.

One statuesque vision in Chloe denim with a newborn infant sleeping peacefully in his Bugaboo is torn between the silver Baby Dior trainers (£84.95) and the Fendi baby shoes (£119). Another shopper is having trouble deciding between the blue dress with red and gold stripe detail (£209 by Little Marc Jacobs) and the gold dress (£159 by Chloe).

Smartly dressed: Gwen Stefani's son Kingston James, left , is watched by his mother and chat show host Ellen DeGeneres. The tot is always smartly turned out

At least the dresses look like something a little girl might actually enjoy wearing, although my two-year-old daughter would get equal pleasure from the contents of the dressing-up box accessorised with her Peppa Pig wellies (found in a local charity shop, and so well loved that they have been worn to bed on several occasions) but Fendi shoes for a pre-walker?

And let’s not even get started on the Bonpoint children’s fragrance that another shopper is asking after. I can’t see any in Harrods, but a quick search online reveals that it is designed to celebrate ‘the love of mothers for their children, and the love they receive in return’.

Which is actually right at the heart of the current obsession with dressing children in designer gear. Somewhere along the line we appear to have bought into the idea that our children will love us more if we buy them expensive things.

Queen of fashion: Even as a toddler, Suri Cruise - pictured here with her parents - was always decked out in expensive clothes

Chartered psychologist Dr Colin Gill agrees that it is an increasingly prevalent and also a deeply misguided attitude.

‘Now more than ever, and even in a recession, we are a relatively cash-rich, time-poor society,’ he says.

‘Everything has a monetary value attached to it and we genuinely believe, therefore, that more money equals more love.’

He also believes that our desire to spend excess amounts on our children’s clothes has selfish overtones.

‘We are trying to buy our way out of spending quality time with our children,’ he says.

‘Increasingly in Britain we seem to believe that we can throw money at difficult parts of our lives — including caring for small children — and make them less troublesome.’

Dr Gill also warns that in addition to salving our guilty consciences, dressing our children in designer clothes can change the way they view the world.

‘The child will quickly become aware that you place a great deal of importance on what they are wearing and you are therefore teaching them that things are as important as they are.

‘It’s an insidious message.’

Dr Gill says it is also possible to artificially infantilise children by dressing them in expensive clothes.

‘A child dressed in this way, feeling they will be letting his parents down if they spoil their clothes, will be less willing to explore,’ he says.

‘This is worrying, as children learn through exploration.’

There is also the influence of the wardrobes of celebrity minors to be taken into account: the Beckham boys, Jennifer Lopez’s twins, Gwen Stefani’s children and, of course, the mini-queen of fashion Suri Cruise.

In fact, so scrutinised has little Suri’s wardrobe become (with tales of custom-made Marc Jacobs heels and the toting of a tiny £425 Salvatore Ferragamo handbag) that Tom felt the need to defend his daughter’s sartorial choices in an interview with Oprah Winfrey.

‘Whatever she wants to wear . . . she wears it,’ he explained.

Well yes. To a certain extent I see Tom’s point. Small children do develop strong opinions on clothes at an early age.

My two-year-old, for example, is currently refusing to be separated from a cotton summer dress with a cat on the pocket. No matter that it’s mid-November: ‘My want cat dress, Mummy,’ is her first request as she peers over the top of her cot at 6am.

But while Suri possibly wants to copy mummy and totter around in grown-up shoes, I find it hard to believe that she — or, indeed, any child of her age — is in the slightest bit bothered about whether Marc Jacobs designed them or not.

In fact, in my limited experience, what children want most is not the clippy, cloppy kitten heels (or indeed, the sparkly dress or the stripy pirate trousers), so much as the grown-up to watch while they don them and then to play along with whatever fantasy ensues. And therein lies the real investment.

source: dailymail


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