There's nothing more unsettling than encountering a child who's better dressed than you.
Yes, it's only a matter of time before the next generation overtakes us in the style stakes – such is inevitable, like them trash-talking our taste in electronic dance music – but does it have to happen so soon? And so en masse?
Childrenswear is a booming billion-dollar industry – one that's attracting grown-up designers such as Preen, Isabel Marant, Kenzo and Roksanda Ilincic into the fold with weak-in-the-knees adorable results. Alex & Alexa, an online purveyor of baby Dior, Fendi and Burberry is thriving, and Net-a-Porter has been sitting on the domain name Petite-a-Porter since 2013, readying their next move.
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The latest designer to jump on board the bandwagon is the man, the myth, the legend Karl Lagerfeld. Inspired by his 5-year-old model godson Hudson Kroenig (whom he once told, "You sleep on your seat, darling … I have to arrive fresh, you don't have to. Don't be selfish," upon claiming the sole bed for himself on a private plane), Uncle Karl will launch a collection of rocker-themed separates for newborns through to kids as old as 16 – yes, a target demographic only slightly above the median age of models at your typical Chanel show.
Anna Wintour has even weighed in, advising Kim and Kanye that they ought to dress Baby Nori in more age-appropriate clothing. We take this to mean no more custom-made black leather bulletproof vests, but a more detailed interpretation can be found via this Vogue editorial that takes images of rake-thin models from recent fashion-weeks-gone-by and bizarrely juxtaposes them besides $225 navy will military jackets, $930 amethyst-toned Charleston dresses and $180 cashmere blankets for accessorising with an "easygoing bohemian flair".
Who's silly enough to buy toddlers trendy clothing in the three-figure realm when they're going to be puked on anyway? A surprising number of sane and normal people, that's who. The Guardian UK's Lauren Craik calls it "a late-motherhood thing", where spare money flows freely and is directed toward imported Bugaboo Chameleons, Maxi Cosis, a myriad of after-school activities – from baby yoga and baby massages to babycinos at hoighty-toighty cafes – and yes, fancy-pants childrenswear. It's a burgeoning market fuelled by a number of factors, including a rapidly increasing birth rate, parents having kids later in life and a wealth of baby-boomer grandparents with more disposable income than time to spend on P&O Cruises.
The internet, with its endless paparazzi shots of Blu Ivy, North West, Suri Cruise and Harper Beckham, is also promoting the idea of a "designer childhood", playing into a society that's increasingly child-centric and image-conscious. Add in aspirational blogs such as Julia Restoin-Roitfeld's Romy & The Bunnies, The Glow and The Grace Tales, with their meticulously/ridiculously art directed takes on motherhood, and you too may be wishing you had a spare $10k to spend on your kids' high-end resort wardrobe.
Are toddlers really the best demographic for elaborate and expensive clothes they could stain, rip, wet and somehow wiggle themselves out of at any second? The last thing I think of when my nephew blows his nose on his sleeve and almost impales himself with connector pens is, "Gee, if only he was doing that in Little Marc Jacobs!" The fact that these kids may grow up to know designer names before their times tables is downright scary. Yet as always – it's usually the parents behind it. Send little Edie/Olive/Stella/Archie/Alfie to mufti day in a scaled-down Givenchy moto jacket and the message is clear: "Edie/Olive/Stella/Archie/Alfie is the sole focus of our aspirations, an extension of our personal brand, our miniature status symbol, so you betcha our bebe won't ever be seen in Target!"
All you really need to clothe that delightful bundle of 'aww' is a bagful of muslin squares and a five-pack of cotton onesies – gender-neutral if you insist. And when the child turns a certain age, let the kid dress themselves. Sure, they'll inevitably end up in light-up wheely sneakers and a Spiderman mask, and your son will insist on wearing your daughter's Frozen costume from last year's Halloween party, but it is much more imaginative than pandering to a certain designer label. And if you must indulge both yourself and them with some token pieces of designer gear, at least wait until they stop treating their underwear as a portable toilet. Karl wouldn't want it any other way.
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