Recently, I received a wonderfully designed card, of two adorable and impeccably dressed children posing in grey trenchcoats, informing me of the new festive collection available at Armani Junior at Delhi's DLF Emporio. When it opened last month, Armani Junior had a white kurta for boys on display in the window, created especially for its India launch. It didn't look any different from a kurta you'd see at Fabindia, except it costs over Rs 6,000.
Are Indian parents really spending this kind of money on dressing their children? I remember seeing a pair of five-year-old twin girls dressed in identical Burberry overcoats and that image has never quite left me. I know many parents who get conned (me included) into buying expensive toys like whirring helicopters that magically stop working the minute you leave the shop, but shopping for kid couture is a choice you make. No child is going to insist on wearing a kurta for Rs 6,000. The snooty brands with signature styles, like the Burberry's check for example, shrewdly make kids clothes that are miniaturised versions of their bestselling adult lines, which is what makes them irresistible to parents who have already bought into the brand. It's interesting to note that most of Burberry's kids stores are in Asia and the Middle East.
That a market exists for kids designer stuff is not news, even though everywhere in the world, it's targeted at the one percent. There are a number of other premium brands such as Chicco, Les Petit and Tommy Hilfiger for kids in Delhi. Clearly they're all doing fine, if they can afford sky-high rentals in top malls. Indian designers have ventured into kids wear with no particular impact, and more as an extension of what they were already doing. Rohit Bal had a label, Bal Bachche, which I no longer see around, and Anshu Arora Sen did a lovely range of girls clothes at Bombay Electric, but I've never spotted any of her stuff in Delhi. Gauri & Nainika do some really beautiful party dresses for little girls, and from what I can make out, they're easily the bestselling among Indian kids designers.
As mother to an 11-month-old girl, I can see all too clearly how the same design styles that are appearing in Paris and London can tug at the heart strings of parents in Delhi. I have made incredibly stupid impulse purchases, buying my daughter silly frocks with smocking and lace and blue jeans in June, when I know very well that she's happiest (and quietest) in tracks and a sweat shirt. I have to tear myself away from any shop selling clothes for girls and I'm in raptures for hours after, debating whether I should have bought that denim skirt or not. I was also buying buttoned down stripe shirts for my son when he was a year old, so it's clearly not just parents of girls who are victims. None of my shopping, though, has been at crazy Armani prices, but I know it doesn't take much to persuade parents to splurge on their kids. And for parents who've already bought themselves the Vuitton and Dior handbag and have a Merc in the garage and first-class vacations, where else do you splurge?
Before giving in to the urge to buy, you have to consider that there's something weird about exposing your kids to luxury commerce before they have the sense to comprehend it. You don't want to be raising a shopaholic, even if you can afford it. It's bad enough that there's peer pressure when it comes to toys at an unreasonably early age, if kids begin to compete in wardrobes as well, we've all had it. And from a practical point of view, are you really okay with your kid spilling tomato ketchup on a dress that costs ten grand, because inevitably, that will happen. Despite the impressive sounding numbers of expensive fashion brands, designer wear is a miniscule part of the worldwide $30 billion plus kids clothes industry. To keep things in perspective, the standard mark up for luxury brands is 7.5 times the cost, while a regular retailer's is 3.5 times. If you're still determined to have a designer wardrobe for your kid, I recommend logging onto www.babyoye.com — the flipkart of kids stuff. Besides Benetton Kids, they have a nice range of Indian clothes for Diwali right now.