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Dressed up in life's little luxuries

WITH many parents prepared to splash out on expensive children's wear by luxury fashion labels, the brands have reacted accordingly by producing specific lines aimed at opulent offspring. Zhang Yi meets some moms who like to dress their kids in designer brands.

Hong Kong's actress-turned style icon Hilary Tsui said in a recent interview that she enjoys dressing her daughter, seven-year-old Constance, as her "mini me."

"I'm an unconventional mother," she said. "Usually mothers won't dress their children in black. But since I like black, I make my daughter wear black from time to time. It's very chic."

Constance, who loves pink, has refused to wear black several times because she doesn't think black is a beautiful color. "So I'd give her reasons," Tsui laughed. "I asked if she thinks I am beautiful. She said yes. I asked if she thinks I look beautiful in black. She said yes. Then I told her she'd look beautiful in black, too."

Not only celebrities, but young mothers in Shanghai nowadays also enjoy dressing their children up for different occasions and shopping at luxury boutiques for children's wear.

"When I was a little girl, I didn't have the chance to wear many pretty clothes," says 31-year-old Lu Min, mother of a four-year-old son. "There were very limited choices back then. I remember all the girls used to wear the same kind of sandals in summer, because that was the only style available in the shops."

So Lu tends to buy lovely children's wear - and lots of it - for her son because "there are just so many choices!"

And she shops not only in local stores but also luxury fashion houses, especially when she's traveling overseas.

Most recently, she bought some Gucci sportswear for her son Chen Tianle while shopping for herself at the Italian luxury fashion house. "He loves it," she says. "The top features a cute teddy bear. Luxury fashion brand's junior collections are generally more sophisticated, with special attention being paid to details - just like their adults' collections. There are not too many colors; instead, they often feature a palette of neutral colors."

Lu's favorite piece she has bought for her son is a beige Kenzo jacket with exotic embroidery around the collar. "Tianle looks so handsome in it, like a little gentleman," she said proudly.

The fashionable mother also likes to dress her boy in a hip-hop style from time to time, with trendy pieces she sourced from Japanese and Korean children's wear brands such as BOOFOOWOO and Cozcoz. "I buy a lot of brightly hued pieces for him too - after all, he is still a little kid," she adds.

Many larger labels have realized that by enchanting parents with their designs, they can also make their mark on children. Many of them now offer children's collections and they are promoting them just as creatively as their main lines.

Gucci launched its junior line in November 2010. The collection, supervised by the Italian label's creative director Frida Giannini, includes two lines: one for infants and the other for children aged between two and eight. It features not only clothes and shoes but also small accessories including scarves, belts, jewelry and sunglasses.

Gucci is not the only brand to take on the children's wear market. In 2009, Jean Paul Gaultier sent mini models down the catwalk alongside his women's wear collection, to showcase the brand's Junior Gaultier line.

Giorgio Armani was one of the first designers to launch a junior collection back in 1981. Famous designers including Stella McCartney, Ralph Lauren and Marc Jacobs have all launched their chic and trendy kids' wear collections.

French luxury children's wear manufacturer Bonpoint recently opened its fourth store on the Chinese mainland in Beijing's China World Trade Center. Bonpoint is the choice of celebrities and stars for their children including Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, Celine Dion, Kate Moss and Michelle Obama.

"Ever since we opened the first store in China in 2005, we're glad to see that business in the country is growing rapidly," said Chen Bo, retail director of Bonpoint in China. "Chinese parents nowadays are open to more new things. They used to prefer colorful items, cartoon characters on children's clothes but now more and more of them have accepted the DNA of our brand, which is French chic in an elegant, low-key way."

Besides luxury fashion houses, high street fashion brands such as Zara, H&M and Gap are also playing a major role in the lucrative children's wear market.

"I frequent Gap stores to buy clothes for my baby boy," said Wu Wenyue, a 28-year-old new mother. "I think the American brand's children's wear is more attractive compared with its adult collections. I also shop at H&M for my baby's clothes especially during the sales season. Last time I got a lovely cotton shirt for only 30 yuan (US$4.62)!"


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