Some of you who follow me on Instagram will be familiar with this little one but allow me to formally introduce you to Lily…
…. She is the niece of my boyfriend Steve and is objectively speaking one of the cutest and prettiest babies I’ve come across ever (and I’ve had a lot of baby experiences what with my many many cousins). She’s coming up to her 2nd birthday and because I will be in Paris next weekend and will miss her party, I thought I’d give her an early pressie – a Roksanda Ilincic patent raincoat from her Blossom childrenswear range, which I had bought at a sample sale. Actually you can add that pressie to the many indulgent gifts, which I have given Lily because I have gotten into this naughty habit of playing dress-up with her. And so it is that I have shamefully succumbed to the thing that I used to vehemently scoff at – designer childrenswear and to some extent the parents who buy these clothes for their blessed children. I scoffed for the usual reasons. Babies and children grow and they grow fast (young Lily is actually wearing a coat made for a 4 year old because she is incredibly tall for her age) and there is no sense in paying over the odds for clothes that they will outgrow in a matter of months and will undergo regular wear and tear. Others will weigh in with their own more moralistic reasons of objection – that kids shouldn’t be exposed to brands and rampant consumerism and that what they wear shouldn’t dictate their sense of self worth so early on. This article on NJAL makes a point about contemporary childrenswear becoming more “adult-looking” – is that right when we hold this wafty moral judgement that “kids should be allowed to be kids.” Or that the sanctity of childhood shouldn’t be tainted by concepts such as child models and unrealistic beauty ideals (although arguably you see a greater diversity in children’s modelling than you do in their adult counterparts…).
I liked this piece that Vanessa Friedman wrote last year, reacting to the launch of Global Kids Fashion Week in London and the rise of the childrenswear sector in amongst fashion brands. She doesn’t necessarily object to designer fashion for children for the aforementioned reasons. Instead she points out that there is value to learning about the way clothes are a form of expression.
Childhood is a time for learning that clothes serve a purpose (beyond warmth and protection); that they are effective ways to telegraph who you are: jeans-and-T-shirt tomboys, tulle-skirted princesses, spotty/stripy originals – all selves that my own children have, literally, tried on When children appear in head-to-toe pink, or clashing patterns, it’s not because they don’t know how to dress; it’s because that’s how they have chosen to dress. That said, learning that choice has an effect on those around them is a key lesson, now more than ever, as image becomes a crucial tool in communication.
That may apply to older children with a better understanding of their peers, actions and surroundings. It’s a weaker case when it comes to babies at Lily’s age. Still, that hasn’t stopped me from going into Bonpoint in Bicester (I will let it be known that every piece of “designer” childrenswear I’ve bought for Lily has been heavily discounted…) and picking up little Liberty print dresses, being increasingly tempted by Stella McCartney’s persuasive kidswear and gorging over the cuteness-laden images in Milk Magazine. The truth is I have succumbed because it is deeply satisfying for me to project my own tastes in childrenswear (and to some extent adult clothes – I mean, OBVIOUSLY I would wear all this stuff in adult sizes) and to have a little person, who is acquiescing to this dress-up routine by laughing and squealing whenever she tries on new things. Case in point, after trying out the Roksanda raincoat in the park and picturesquely jumping in puddles, the next morning she wanted to wear the coat again. Yikes – sartorial smart cookies are getting younger and younger. Clearly Lily has already developed a taste for a well-judged trapeze volume and a perfect peter pan collar.
It may still be far, far away but it’s hard not to think about the choices I would make with my own offspring in the future, given how easily I’ve waded into designer childrenswear, against my better judgement – for a little girl who isn’t even related to me by blood. No use in blaming the brands, who have capitalised on the growing demand from well-off folk to kit out their sprogs in designer togs. Then is it a matter of making the right judgement calls when it comes to aesthetic and price? I’m probably still unlikely to swan into Harrods childrenswear department and buy up Chloe baby-gros and Baby Dior nappy bags nor will I sniff at those that make the choice to do so. In my head, I’ll be making concessions for occasional on-sale pieces from the likes of Petit Bateau because they are aesthetically charming and they errr…. wash well (Steve’s sister makes the same justification for her Petit Bateau purchases for Lily, which apparently wash better than H&M or Zara). And of course working in the biz with perks of sample sales and discounts, the likes of Roksanda’s Blossom range as seen in this outrageously cute A/W 14 lookbook will be in all likelihood, immensely difficult to resist.
Scoff away people…