This weekend just passed my brilliant boyfriend organised a surprise trip from Copenhagen to Berlin. After five hours of hurtling along the German autobahn at 160km/ph, a confusing encounter with a Burger King employee called Boheme and almost making schnitzel of ourselves and an unfortunate deer, we finally arrived in one of the hippest districts of the former GDR, Friedrichshain.
Berlin has one of the youngest and most dynamic populations in all of Europe. The relatively low rent and the city's reputation as an arts and culture hub keep new inhabitants streaming in constantly, whilst the old ones grow up, get responsible and move to Munich or some such.
|Dolce & Gabbana|
So it is perhaps counter intuitive that über cool Friedrichshain would also count amongst the most fertile places in Europe. The birth rate in this small area of Berlin is the highest in Europe due to the extremely high proportion of the population that is young and female (not because Berliners are more loving than everyone else).
At a local market the next morning we observed all sorts of kinder running around in the fresh autumn air. And Berlin struck me as a place where a dilemma faced by parents all over the world is being played out, highlighted by the historical contrasts of East and West. That is between an older GDR attitude based on local producers, hand me down clothes and crafty cool and a newer, flashier style more reminiscent of Parisian fashion shows. Basically, how much money is it worth splashing on the kids' wardrobe to get them in some labels?
All parents want to do the best for their kids and make sure they are warm, comfortable and stylishly equipped to meet the world. As they get older, obviously a child's own perceptions of chic will start to play a role in the selection of clothes as well.
At the markets we encountered lots of local producers making good quality kids clothing. Not just knick nacks like scarves and mittens, but dresses, pants and shirts. All were beautifully sewn or recovered elsewhere and lovingly repaired or updated. Certainly there was something about these clothes (perhaps a lack of sleekness?) which suggested that they were not designed by Chloe. And yet if we consider how fast children grow and how hard they wear their clothes – does the significantly lower price tag justify the loss of the couture factor?
A few blocks away from the market we stopped for breakfast at a trendy little cafe and whilst waiting on my muesli I flicked though a copy of German childrens' fashion mag, Luna. Unfortunately this page is only in German, but it is easy enough to navigate the different fashion features by picture. Luna features some of the best childrens' fashion from top designers around the world. I oogled the designs of Ralph Lauren, Gucci and D & G worn by models toddling down the runway.
There can be no doubt that the children looked gorgeous and the quality of design and fabrics is evident. But, like the inhabitants of the GDR suddenly faced with packed supermarket shelves of imported goods after the fall of the wall, I started to wonder if it was all just a bit too much.
My question is, do kids really belong in designer duds? Maybe a nice party dress and a shiny new pair of shoes are all they need to keep them happy, at least until they hit the teen years.
Perhaps we should be looking for inspiration in these designs rather than an actual purchase. What do you think? Are designer childrens' clothes worth the investment?