Sunday 22 October 2017

Baby perfume? The idea stinks

Mother with baby
Mother with baby

'Eau de toddler' is yet another sign of the endless commercialisation of childhood, writes Bryony Gordon

What do you get for the baby who has everything, from the Bugaboo Donkey pram (about €1,050) to the Christian Dior dummy holder (€80) to the Fendi bottle (€140 – but it does at least come with a holder, too)?

You buy it perfume, of course, because as we all know any self-respecting newborn worth its Ralph Lauren Ruffle Bum Playsuit (€53) isn't even going to contemplate turning up at the next baby group unless it has been sprayed with eau de bébé.

And recognising that scent for babies is a gap in the market – it is, if you will, what the little cherubs have been crying out for all these years – Dolce & Gabbana have decided to launch a unisex perfume for the newborn in your life.

Speaking about the company's latest offering, which will go on sale later this year at the relatively modest sum of around €33 for a 50ml bottle, the designer Stefano Gabbana said: "That familiar smell associated with babies will only be accentuated by this fragrance."

It will contain notes of citrus, melon and honey, all famously evocative of newborns, and will "pamper every little boy and girl". The scent, which is alcohol-free, has been inspired by the "softness of baby skin" and the "freshness of baby breath".

Worse still, Dolce & Gabbana is not the only fashion house to dabble in this particular brand of ridiculousness. Bulgari's Petits et Mamans perfume features Sicilian orange, bergamot and Brazilian rosewood. Hmm, the sweet smell of infants!

At €36, Burberry's Baby Touch will cost you more than your weekly child benefit, but it does promise "warm floral notes of cyclamen, orange blossom, lily of the valley and jasmine".

Meanwhile, those of us on a budget can invest in baby cologne for just €5. This one has been created by Johnson's – purveyors of such childhood classics as the "No more tears" shampoo that we've all grown up with – who really should know better.

If there were any doubt that childhood was in danger of disappearing, then the emergence of a baby perfume market surely dispels it. When I was a wee lass, we didn't even think of fragrance until we were 15 and dousing ourselves in Charlie to attract the boys (our mothers never stopped us because the smell was so pungent that it actually scared them away). After all, isn't that why men and women wear scent in the first place? In the vain hope that we'll appear more alluring?

When I recall the scents of my adolescence – CK One, Tommy Girl, Obsession – I feel nauseous. But not half as nauseous as when I think of my unborn daughter's first words being: "Mummy, please can I have a bottle of Marc Jacobs for my birthday?"

Where will the objectification and commercialisation of children end? High heels for babies? Nope, that's already been done. Heelarious provide cowboy boots for tots, as well as bright pink "teethers" shaped like credit cards, allowing baby to play at getting into debt.

Ditto iPads for infants – last week, it was announced that the InnoTab 2, an €114.99 "chewable" tablet computer, would be launched in time for Christmas.

Claude Knights, director of the UK children's charity, Kidscape, is not surprised. Recently, she babysat her 17-month-old godson, who grabbed her copy of a glossy magazine thinking it was an iPad.

"He looked at me with utter bemusement when he couldn't get things to move around. I was amazed."

The level of computer literacy in some toddlers, she says, "leaves even their parents behind. And it worries me, because there is an inappropriateness in much of this. Commercialisation has gone on for years, but mostly with the teenage market. Now that companies have explored and exhausted that, they have moved on to an even younger market."

Knights points to the rise of the baby beauty pageant, a phenomenon in the US that has transferred across the Atlantic, where toddlers parade around in fake eyelashes and swimming costumes.

"I wonder, is this parents living vicariously through their children? It is an unnecessary trend that has repercussions for childhood."

We are all in danger of losing perspective, she warns. "Nowadays it is quite normal for the whole family to club together to buy a buggy that, along with all the accessories, costs almost £1,000."

She adds that spending so much on a barely cognisant baby is a "smack in the face when there are children not eating properly. Of course, people can do what they want with their money, but it still seems almost immoral."

Even perfume experts are stumped by Dolce & Gabbana's foray into baby scents. "I don't think babies need a finishing touch," says Vanessa Musson, a fragrance expert and blogger.

"They are fine as they are, and any trend that suggests otherwise is a concern. D&G say their scent 'smells of baby', but a baby already smells like a baby, and if I wanted one to smell even more so, I could just sign it up to a crêche."

As Siobhan Freegard, of Netmums, tells me: "Why would you want to hide the beautiful smell of a baby? That scent is primal. It is there to help you bond with the child.

"If I was spending money on the arrival of a newborn, I'd buy the mother some Touche Éclat concealer to help her hide her bags. If, however, a company could bottle the delicious scent of a baby, they'd be on to a winner."

Quite so. Infancy smells sweet enough as it is, without designers trying to spritz perfume all over it.

Irish Independent

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