While most of the fashion industry tightens its belt, designer childrenswear labels thrive.
A little extravagance
Yawn, economy, recession, crumbling, gloom, blah blah blah. Sick of it all and in need of good news? Well there's one area of fashion, at least, that seems to be thriving: childrenswear. Burberry is a big company, and its management are very far from foolhardy, so when, last Wednesday, the British fashion brand opened a 110-square-metre store in Dubai Mall entirely devoted to the little darlings - only the fourth Burberry children's shop in the world, and the first in the Middle East - we sat up and took notice.
The limpidly innocent children in the ad campaign, shot by no lesser photographer than Mario Testino, wear little versions of the classic "elegantly dishevelled" Burberry style, shot in an English garden. Silly, extravagant, unrealistic - and completely irresistible to anyone with an ounce of maternal feeling. Not that designer kidswear is anything new, of course. The utterly gorgeous mini-me outfits put out by BabyDior regularly draw cooing women to the stores to virtually drool over the tiny shoes and delicate dresses - before they buy them for their kids to literally drool over. When, last November, a Bugaboo stroller designed by Marc Jacobs was released in a limited edition of 15, bloggers' cries of decadence and excess did not prevent the likes of Gwen Stefani from pushing their rich kids in their black-on-black graffiti prams.
In fact, no fashion and lifestyle label worth its coat hangers lacks a children's division. John Galliano's collections send the girls out looking like Madonna and the boys looking like, well, mini Galliano pirates. Ralph Lauren has long rounded out its collections with Little Lord Fauntleroy-style aristo get-ups or Hamptons-preppy sportswear for children (who would probably prefer a baseball cap to a flat cap and tweeds; but young children's fashion is, after all, the parents' choice).
Armani, Cavalli, Kenzo, Sonia Rykiel... The list of glamorous brands presented for the delectation of the most spoilt of brats goes on and on, and there is a strong network of websites dedicated to feeding the kiddies' appetites for fashion - indoctrinating them early, which is just what the brands need. Yet surely, when the wealthy are cutting back on their It-bag quotas for the year and the less wealthy are cutting back on their food bills, kidswear (by which we mean clothes that have a useful life of just a few months before being destroyed by finger paints and errant baby food or becoming too-small, last-season hand-me-downs) should be the first sector to succumb to the economy drive. Buying Gap instead of Galliano would seem the sensible option given the throwaway nature of baby clothes.
Except, of course, that buying clothes for your kids is the one indulgence you can never feel guilty about. They need them, after all. They can't run around in rags and too-short trousers. You don't want to give them a lifelong complex by making them wear inferior togs. Only the best for your little angels. Oh, and goody, you still get to go shopping. With Hollywood's mini baby boom over, the last few years has come a whole phalanx of yummy-mummy role models, from the earth mother style of Angelina Jolie to the cool working-mum look of Katie Holmes. And if we grown-ups don't have the self-awareness to disassociate ourselves from the influence of celebrities on our own looks (Ooh! The sylph-like Mischa Barton's wearing Sass & Bide's wet-look Rat leggings - where can I get some?), then how are little girls supposed to not want to look like the fabulously cute Suri Cruise in her Burberry ensembles; and how could little boys not envy the Beckham lads with their sharp little suits and football tops?
Working on that assumption, ASOS.com (As Seen On Screen), the wildly successful fashion website that specialises in replicating celebrity looks, is about to launch Little ASOS, on Feb 20. Like Burberry, ASOS has shown an uncanny ability to ride out the hard times, with its recession-busting business strategy leading it to an incredible 118 per cent sales increase year on year. The company's new online kids' shop will allow its customers to dress their baby beloveds in miniature Evisu Kizzu jeans, titchy Converse or Uggs and minuscule Rock Star Baby T-shirts (designed by Bon Jovi's drummer Tico Torres). So while we might be stuck with limp leftovers from last season or practical workwear for every season, our beautiful bouncing babies will never have looked chicer.