Remember when you were a child and your parents’ control extended to all facts of your life, including what you wore? Of course, that was their job, and the duty of guidance seemed so right then. Society values were different and the world itself looked so vast and distant. People still wrote letters and thank-you notes and gadget toys were so few; nowadays we can “face time” on a phone with a loved one on the other side of the world. Technology is constantly making life easier for adults, and as a result, children are forced to become grown-ups at an out-of-control speed. When I see images of Justin Bieber driving a yellow Lamborghini, I wonder where his parents were 10 years ago when he was only 9 years old.
A few weeks ago, I found myself on the basement level of Harbour City Mall in Tsim Sha Tsui, an urban area in southern Kowloon, in the over-the-top city of Hong Kong. The basement level is mostly catered to kids, but in addition to the usual Toys”R”Us are luxury stores like Fendi, Gucci, Armani, Ralph Lauren, Stella McCartney, Dolce & Gabbana, Burberry, Tommy Hilfiger, United Colors of Benetton and Dior (Baby Dior), among others. This clearly suggests that we are slowly moving to a new era carefully controlled by luxury brands to seduce parents and secure their loyalty to certain brands for their children, who will one day also be consumers. However, this “trend” didn’t start just yesterday. Since 2001, Dolce & Gabbana has had a “kids” or “junior” collection, and of course other luxury brands immediately followed its path. And, do I need to remind you that last year this Italian brand was the first one to make a fragrance for babies?
And even celebrities have started making collections for kids and babies — for example, not surprisingly, the Kardashians.
Inside these luxurious baby stores in the mall, children were running free while parents were shopping like robots in search of objects that will keep them relevant in their tribe. I mean, it is not my business how rich people spend their money, but the scenario was the same in every store I entered. Let’s be honest, an 8-year-old doesn’t understand the difference between organza and taffeta, but their mothers do, and so do intelligent marketers who are cashing in on these vanities. Who do we blame? And is it fair to blame companies for introducing the world to this new measurement of personal success? In the past, rich kids wore Lilly Pulitzer and Florence Eiseman, but I don’t believe it was a stamp of success so coveted by the nouveau riche parents of today. For some really wealthy people, when you have that kind of money, clothes, shoes, bags, cars and jewelry are no longer status symbols, but simply a lifestyle.
The fashion industry is slowly experimenting with children’s image in a way that once was considered unthinkable. Some say it is art. Who doesn’t remember when Vogue Paris published an editorial spread with a 10-year-old dressed to kill? It was edited by fashion god Tom Ford as if “Toddlers and Tiaras” went totally couture! Have you watched E!’s new reality show “Rich Kids of Beverly Hills”? Ouch. This all brings me back to the first question I asked, when I was wondering about Justin Bieber’s parents. Who are these children’s parents? Where are they? Oh yeah, they’re at Gucci.