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PRETTY PETITE

The burberry babies

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RIGHT TO DRESS: Armani was one the first brands to launch a line for the young (back in 1982) and is one of the most successful luxury children's wear brands in the world.

With more designers producing high fashion for children, a look at whether infant chic is worth it.

I was recently in London shopping for my cousin's baby shower. Not knowing much about newborns, I asked some of my young mother friends for gifting suggestions - which ranged from Tod's shoes to Gucci caps. It struck me that these are presents more suited for an 18th birthday party then a yet-to-be-born baby. Go to any restaurant for a Sunday brunch and you are bound to run into noisy children running around. Which is fine, but when these children are clad in Burberry checks or Baby Dior booties, you do feel that children are just growing up too quickly. It's not just foreign designers, the desi brigade too has jumped on the infant chic bandwagon so much so that last year there was even an Indian Kids Fashion Week staged. Even one of my favourite design studios Play Clan is retailing t-shirts for children. So clearly there is a market for this, despite how I feel. Abraham and Thakore recently did a line of boy kurtas for the Bombay-based MAL boutique which specialises in children's clothing. About the move into this segment, David Abraham says, "It is part of a larger trend. Many companies are now looking at children. Look at the food segment or all the children's channels on television. " I guess business is business and in times of recession children products still grew. In the last couple of years both Gucci and Burberry have increased their sales of clothing for children both here and abroad, and this week Armani Junior opened its first flagship store in Delhi. It may come as no surprise to hear that Indian moms - those who can afford it, of course - love to dress their children designer. In fact, Gucci is looking at expanding their kids' section in its store at Emporio and will dedicate a whole corner to it.

This is something that Suneet Varma (the designer who is one of the promoters of Unique Eye Luxury, the company that brought Armani Junior to India) realised. The 2, 000-plus-square-foot Armani Junior store in Emporio store has Vertu and Paul Smith as its neighbours. It also houses a special education centre from where art appreciation, music and elocution classes will take place.

"Two years ago, I decided I wanted to be in the luxury business. Hermes, Louis Vuitton and Gucci, all the big players, are here already. But there was no children's wear brand. Burberry and Gucci had a rack dedicated to children and I noticed it was always selling out, " Varma says.

So Varma saw an opportunity, did some research and found that within apparel, the highest growing sector was children's with 27 per cent growth. Armani was one the first brands to launch a line for the young (back in 1982) and is one of the most successful luxury children's wear brands in the world and Varma naturally thought of them first.

Now that still does not answer many questions I have about children in designer clothing. Should babies, infants and children be exposed to designer clothes? What about the expense, why spend silly money on clothes that they are going to grown out of or ruin within hours?

An Indian designer lehenga for your threeyear-old daughter can cost around Rs 15, 000, a pair of Gucci loafers Rs 12, 000 and an Armani Junior polo t-shirt for your toddler can set you back by Rs 5, 000. So I decided to turn back to some of young mother friends.

Said one, "I have never bought my son designer clothing. I think it is wrong. But I have received them as gifts. I must admit I have found them useful for special occasions and of more use than the silver spoons and bowls that are the traditional gifting items for newborns. " But the same friend observed that many young mothers are now substituting the it-bag with designer clothes for children. "Children parties have become like a dressing up competitions !"

Another friend loves seeing her little one in Burberry checks, Tod's drivers and Gucci dresses and is very excited about the launch of Armani Junior in India. "I wear Armani and I love it. So why should I not have my children wear Armani?" As wallet sizes grow and designer wear becomes part of everyday life for some, it is normal to have everyone in the house wear designer clothes. "If you have the money it is natural to want to spend it on your children, " says Varma. "Also the clothes are made with a lot of technology. Special fabrics that will stretch are used and special features such as roll-up sleeves are incorporated so they will last. "

And even when it comes to clothes for grown-ups, with fashion and trends changing every season, much of what we buy often does not last more than a couple of years.

The third mother I spoke to added a very interesting point, "It really is up to the parents how they introduce and how much importance they put on the designer aspect of the garment. I have bought a Burberry trench for my daughter and she knows it is a special item only to be worn when occasion demands. She also is aware that I will be passing it down to her baby sister, so treats it with care. I do not see anything wrong with making investment designer purchases for the children. "

Perhaps it is a fact of life;children are growing up quicker than they did before. They are more aware of brands than ever. This is simply a sign of the times. "Maybe, when this generation grows up, it will be so exposed that it will not care about showing off the way their parents do, " said one very observant father.

But here is a request (actually applicable to both parents and children). How and in what you dress your child is a personal choice but just remember wearing logo branded clothes head to toe is vulgar! So please don't do it! After all the point of letting your children wear is designer is to educate them as to what good taste is.

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