DOLCE & Gabbana has brought out a perfume “inspired by the smell of a baby”. The first time I read this I wondered why on earth any grown woman would want to smell like a baby, until I realised that the perfume wasn’t for grown women, it was for babies.
So the idea is that a baby, who one must assume already smells like a baby, can smell of a perfume “inspired by the smell of a baby”. Got that? No, neither have I.
In the ludicrous, over-the-top world that is 21st century fashion and beauty, I suppose this probably makes sense. Another way to make money, another suddenly “must-have” product. After all, D&G is the fashion house that once marketed a solid silver corset complete with padlock and chain. It is hardly the bellweather in flag-waving liberation for women and parenthood. But there’s something about a perfume for babies that seems not just wrong but a little, well, creepy.
According to Stefano Gabbana, the perfume is “designed to cuddle and pamper every little boy and girl”. Perhaps I’ve got the wrong end of the stick here, but I always thought that cuddles delivered that service quite adequately. Then there’s the price: a mere snip at £28 for a 50ml bottle, or almost one-fifth of the newly-lowered £135.45 weekly statutory maternity pay (thanks Uncle George!), which seems an awful lot of money for something that seeks to replicate one of the most simple and natural scents in the world.
Of course, D&G is far from the first fashion house to go down the baby perfume route. Burberry has been manufacturing one for years, while L’Occitane produces a “Mom and baby water”. Bvlgari meanwhile, does one that is apparently “created for the shared pleasure of children and their mothers”. Which is nice. Even Johnson’s has got in on the act with a £4.29 “baby cologne”, whatever that is.
And the trend for designer baby accessories and beauty products does not stop at perfumes. There are designer bottles and holders, not to mention dummies and shoes and cute outfits that cost more than a pair of Jimmy Choo stilettos. It is as if the fashion houses – and increasingly the high street stores, which so often follow in the designers’ footsteps – have looked at the market, and decided that the next group of people in need of direct exploitation are those whose age you can still count in months.
While this does not mean that babies themselves will be perusing the makeup counters of Harvey Nichols, casting a critical eye over Chanel’s current lip colours or turning their dummies down at YSL’s latest mascara range, it does seek to snag the yummy mummy crowd, the increasingly large group of women in their 30s and 40s who, by the time they have a child, also have successful careers, healthy bank balances, a taste for designer items and a desire for their little angel to be the most stylish tot on the block.
The question, of course, is where does it end? Will some bright spark bring out a baby fake tanner? Or false eyelashes for toddlers? Or hair extensions for the six months and upwards? There are already baby pageants springing up across the UK, which encourage parents to dress their children like terrifying teen-toddlers complete with makeup, painted nails and the ability to throw a diva-like tantrum if their every desire is not catered to.
But, more worryingly, babies who are doused in perfume when they are still learning basic motor skills and go on to be dressed in nothing but the finest of designer labels eventually turn into children, and I find it hard to believe that having been taught the importance of image from birth, this will not, somehow, affect them.
We seem to be determined to turn our children into mini-adults from the moment they open their eyes, and when this comes to image it can only ever be dangerous. Young girls are bombarded with pictures of female perfection – whether it be on TV or online – and often through popstars such as Katy Perry and Rihanna. Teaching them from birth that they must be wearing the latest designer fragrance will only reinforce insecurities, ensuring that their self-worth is wrapped up in how they look and smell, rather than what they have to say and think. It is a dangerous trend that should not be encouraged. Surely we need to let our children be children, and let our babies smell like babies?