The launch of Bugaboo's Donkey stroller has caused a furore in the parenting world, but how practical is it in the UAE?
Is the Bugaboo Donkey really worth its eyewatering price?
What do the chameleon, the frog and the bee all have in common? If you have to think about it, you are clearly not a young parent; or expecting a baby; or the owner of a Bugaboo - the uber-trendy Dutch brand that has transformed what was once merely a buggy into a lifestyle choice.
To this list (for the uninitiated, the names represent the various Bugaboo models) can now be added the Donkey. Don't be fooled by the dopey-sounding name: its launch this month in the US and UK has caused a furore in parenting circles, with waiting lists, despite its $1,659 price tag (Dh6,100), fast making it the Birkin bag of strollers.
Dubbed "hotter than the iPad2" by the New York Daily News, the Donkey promises to do what no other model on the market is able to: transform from a single to a double buggy and back again. For parents who plan on having more than one child in a four-year period, says Ben Boenk, the chief executive of DutchKid, the official distributors for Bugaboo in the Middle East, this fills a yawning gap in the market. "Of course, if you have twins, it's also a nice solution," says Boenk, "but the core target group is parents who will have a second baby within four years of the first, or those who like the extra storage space [in the one-seater set-up, the excess width on the side converts to a handy basket]."
A viewing of the demo video for the Donkey on Bugaboo's website (which in itself is like a stroll around a hip Scandinavian furniture store) shows how, in several slick moves, it can be transformed from a one-seater to a two-seater using an array of options: one or two bassinets, one or two seats or one of each etc. Not only does it solve the "how to transport the second child?" issue, but it also allows both children to face each other, as opposed to Junior being slung behind the older sibling, which is the case with many competing brands.
With its cost comparable to that of a small second-hand car, though, the price tag does take your breath away. It is justified, claims Boenk, when you consider that it will see you through your childbearing years without the need for more than one buggy (many parents end up replacing their single stroller with a double once their second child is born, only to be left with a double once the older one has grown out of it). "For me, it's a bit like the Apple computer of strollers," he adds. "An Apple is more expensive than a PC but people like it for its design, for its ease of use."
As a Bugaboo owner myself (a Cameleon, since you ask), I must admit to feeling a certain frisson of excitement as I watched the baseball-booted mum on the website, in her minimalist warehouse studio, flip effortlessly between the mono and duo options. With its clean lines and ergonomic shape, the Donkey looks cool - well, as cool as a buggy is ever going to look.
Katrina Anderson, a marketing director who lives in Abu Dhabi and has a seven-month-old daughter, is tempted by the design, but has concerns about its size. "I love my Bugaboo Cameleon, and I would definitely buy the Donkey," she says. "My concern, despite its appealing features, would be its width. In the retail world here they don't seem to consider prams in their store configurations at all. Even the walking paths are narrow."
Harriet Hall, an Abu Dhabi-based lawyer who has the Bugaboo Bee for her one-year-old son, is also a fan of the brand, but feels that the Donkey would have its drawbacks in a country such as the UAE, where journeys often involve getting in the car.
"My husband and I often say how glad we are we bought the Bee," she says, "but I wouldn't buy the Donkey. I think it would be a lot more useful somewhere like London, where you can walk much more. Here, it's the hassle factor of having to take it apart all the time."
As the brand, which was launched in 1999 by the Dutch designer Max Barenbrug as a solution for "modern, urban parents", has grown in stature, it has become synonymous with celebrities - the singer Mariah Carey is reported to have bought a Donkey for her newborn twins - and well-to-do, image-conscious types. Lizzie Johnstone, a mother of two from Abu Dhabi, feels that new parents are prime targets for the hype. "When you are pregnant with your first one, you want to try to have the best for your little one," she says. "I know so many people who have bought Bugaboos, including myself. They look pretty and if you have lots of space then no issues, but I do think people buy the brand and image rather than the practicality."
Others, including Katie Towers, who has the Cameleon for her six-month-old son, think the hype is justified. "Having had a go on other friends' buggies, including the ever-popular Maclarens," she says, "I don't think any of them come close. Every little design angle has been considered, and my husband Scott, a petrolhead who is obsessed with performance cars, thinks the wheels, suspension, turning circle, manoeuvrability etc are all top-notch." Would she buy the Donkey, though?
"I think it looks great, but I have to say once the price tag gets over about £900 (Dh5,520) you start questioning whether you actually need it and looking at other options. But based on our experience of the Cameleon, we would definitely consider it."
Either way, in Dubai, says Boenk, he would have been able to shift around 200 Donkeys already, had he been able to supply them. "We've had around 80-90 requests a month for it for the past few months," he says. Unfortunately for them, it won't be available in the UAE until January 2012 (although a waiting list will open at the end of November).
I must say, I'm tempted. No, it's not going to change my life, nor that of my child. But, as Boenk says, enticingly: "Bugaboos invite you to live the life you had before you had a baby." Mums, start sharpening those elbows now.
For the mum who's got everything, the most glamorous children's products on the market.
The Roddler, USD3,500
And you thought the Donkey was expensive. The 'Roddler' from Kid Kustoms is a space-age stroller whose design elements are based on classic cars and aircraft. Includes as iPod dock and a DVD player. www.kidkustoms.com
Art For Kids crib, USD4,100
The Beverly Hills fine children's furniture maker Art for Kids have come up with the delightfully ornate French panel cot. The dark wood finish is gilded in gold leaf. Exactly what your baby never wanted.
Gucci nappy bag, Dh3,350
Having a baby doesn't mean having to shelve your designer handbag. Combine the two in Gucci's monogrammed fabric version, which comes with a pull-out changing mat and pockets for bottles. Gucci, Mall of the Emirates, Dubai
There's no way this is going anywhere near your baby's mouth. Encrusted with diamonds set into white gold, it can be personalised with your baby's name and date of birth. Shiloh Jolie-Pitt reportedly has one. Obviously. www.personalizedpacifiers.com
Teddy Bear, USD210,000
In 2000 Jessie Kim of Korea reportedly paid this astounding sum at auction for a Steiff Louis Vuitton teddy bear. Sadly, since it currently resides at the Teddy Bear Museum in Jeju, Korea, this is one your little angel won't be able to get their hands on just yet.