News Analysis

Saturday 20 September 2014

Lorraine Courtney: Toddler heels, baby scents. . . when did just letting children be children fall out of vogue?

Published 31/01/2013 | 05:00

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'VOGUE' has just announced that it is to launch 'Miss Vogue', a UK edition that will join its American counterpart, 'Teen Vogue', and the Italian 'Vogue Bambini' in Conde Nast's international line-up. Editor Alexandra Shulman said: "We are really excited at the opportunity to create a slightly different 'Vogue' for this readership. I wanted to produce something that would have bespoke content for a younger audience."

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The launch has stirred excitement in the fashion industry, but naturally, news of this 124-page glossy has been received with caution by campaigners for body image issues. The British edition of the iconic fashion publication has a strict policy that states it will not use models under the age of 16 on its pages, though whether or not this policy will also be attributed to the new magazine is unknown.

Once upon a time, kids were kids. They wore Startrite shoes and clothes that would withstand the rough and tumble of the sandpit. Now, fashion-fixated five-year-olds have their role model in Suri Cruise with her painted nails, faux-fur jackets and high heels. It's claimed Suri has a wardrobe that's worth more than $3m (€2.2m) that includes designer handbags and one-off commissions. And she has been voted the most influential celebrity child in the world. She has also fuelled a whole trend for high-heeled shoes, with versions for girls as young as three being sold in GapKids, Asda and Next.

There's now a huge fashion industry for children of all ages, so it's little wonder that small children now have problems with body image. In the UK, Mumsnet is running a campaign entitled 'Let Girls Be Girls', where they are asking retailers to agree not to sell products that encourage the premature sexualisation of children. It's a small victory in a cultural trend that treats children as mini adults.

Where does all this madness end? Not in the cradle, apparently. Molton Brown has a range for what it calls "hip infants". Some of the baby products available seem pointless. Both Givenchy and Kiehl's do a baby lip balm. Have you ever seen a baby with chapped lips? Me neither. Possibly some Scandinavian six-month-old who skis. Then there are baby scents.

D&G has just launched a new scent for babies. It has warm floral heart notes of cyclamen, orange blossom, lily of the valley and jasmine. You might think it sounds a tad far-fetched, but according to Stefano Gabbana, the new perfume is "designed to cuddle and pamper every little boy and girl". But babies smell heavenly anyway, so why would you want to mask that with a manufactured scent? Simply because it makes good business sense. Adult fashion might be limping along, but demographics support the sudden interest in infant-led spending.

We can dismiss 'Miss Vogue' as frivolous, over-priced fluff that nobody is going to take seriously. No one, except maybe your pre-teen daughter. She will be getting the message loud and clear that for girls it's the aesthetic, external attributes, the cut of your dress and the quality of your accessories that define you as a person. There is a drip, drip, drip to all this, and it does have a cumulative effect.

The new wave of baby products takes this a step too far. Can we just sleepwalk into a world where this is considered normal?

Irish Independent

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