Trendsetting celebrity kids the latest pop-culture obsession

ALLIE HAGAN, creator of Suri’s Burn Book, a satirical blog that skewers our obsession with the offspring of celebrities, commented on the massive shift that has occurred in celebrity culture in the last 20 years in an interview with The Hairpin.

Trendsetting celebrity kids the latest pop-culture obsession

“The pop culture obsession with celebrity children is a very new phenomenon,” she says. “The example I like to give is that Michael J Fox was one of the biggest celebrities in America in the ’90s. He has four kids and I don’t even know their names. People just didn’t care that much.”

It’s a very different landscape today, Hagan believes, saying that, “...then the internet came, People and US got websites and TMZ came into existence and there was suddenly a 24-hour news cycle for celebrity news. There are so many movie stars, so they needed someone to write about, and the natural extension of that was celebrity children.”

Coincidentally, this interest in celebrity children coincided with the decision of major celebrities to start having children — Suri Cruise, Ben Affleck’s and Jennifer Garner’s daughter, Violet, Shiloh Jolie-Pitt, Gwen Stefani’s son, Kingston Rossdale, and Britney Spears’ son, Sean Preston Federline, were all born within eight months of each other. Their style identities were immediately clear to see, from Kingston Rossdale’s rock-star mohawk to Suri Cruise’s Princess chic.

Since the children were unlikely to be selecting these clothes themselves, their ‘looks’ tended to be an extension of their parent’s sartorial preferences. As websites such as ASOS (As Seen On Screen) made the ability to dress like your favourite celebrity increasingly easy, the progression to dressing your child like your favourite celebrity’s child seemed obvious.

Parents are beginning to see what their children wear as a reflection of themselves and their own good (or bad!) taste. Siobhán O’Donovan, buyer with one of Ireland’s most popular ranges of clothing for kids, Diffusion Wear, told the Irish Examiner that similarly to adult fashion, trends are beginning to play a larger part in kids wear, saying that, “For this spring/summer season, there is a very classical, Italian style coming through for boys, but in a riot of colour in wonderful combinations such as royal blue and orange, navy and apple green, neon and blue, and turquoise and mint. For girls, the look is going to be extremely pretty, with lots of dresses in ’50s style shapes and lace shorts in white and citrus, peach and cream, and silver and metallics.”

She believes that “you pay for what you get for and Irish consumers are very savvy, they have great taste and love good quality in clothing for their children”.

This love of good quality is evident in the increase in the amount of money that parents are spending on their kid’s wardrobes. A recent survey conducted by the discount clothing store TK Maxx suggests parents spend on average €312.99 per year on children’s clothing. Baby & Me suggest that for more affluent, middle class families, this figure could go as high as £800, while a 2011 survey conducted by the home insurance firm Sheila’s Wheels found they had more than 154 items of clothing in their wardrobes, with the average shoe bill clocking in at £190 a year.

Prompted by what some experts call the ‘Suri Cruise Effect’, four out of 10 children are dressed in designer clothes by the age of two, and there are even blogs especially dedicated to analysing the wardrobes of Suri Cruise and Harper Beckham. Of course, much of what they wear is beyond the reach of the average family, with Suri photographed carrying her own £11,000 Hermes bag, or wearing a £1,300 Dolce & Gabbana trench coat with a pair of £500 miniature Marc Jacobs heels.

When she was two years old, the Daily Mail reported that Harper Beckham had never been photographed in the same outfit twice, and that her wardrobe was estimated to be worth £5,000, with Victoria Beckham showing a preference for dressing her daughter in Bonpoint, Marie-Chantal and Chloe. Besides spending a reported $1 million on Blue Ivy’s nursery, Beyonce and Jay-Z bought their daughter a $290 silk Jean Paul Gaultier dress to start her wardrobe — not exactly a practical choice for a newborn.

Of course, many of these items may have been sent to the celebrities as gifts from the designers themselves in the hope that their children will be photographed in the items, guaranteeing the brands maximum publicity.

While the average parent might not be able to afford to pay such amounts of money for clothing that will only fit for a few weeks, or months at best, the influence these photos of celebrity children have upon us cannot be denied. Estelle Lee, editor-in-chief of Baby & Me, a parenting magazine, says that “In today’s fashion climate what your children wear says as much about you as it does them. We’ve had the Suri Cruise ‘mini me’ and now the Duchess of Cambridge has expertly curated little George’s wardrobe with home-grown designer brands that reflect her own understated good taste.”

While Kate’s outfits were reported upon widely during their recent trip to Australia and New Zealand, the attention given to Prince George’s outfits was unmistakable. By day two of their trip, twitter followers had successively identified his sailboat embroidered dungarees as an item from Rachel Riley’s range, prompting them to sell out immediately despite the hefty £75 price tag.

Buyers with Debenhams have found that Prince William and baby George have been voted best dressed parent and child by more than one in four mums and dads (28%), pushing Victoria Beckham and Harper into second place. They told the Irish Examiner that, “On their tour Down Under, Duke of Cambridge illustrated perfectly the celebrity-led ‘mini-me’ craze when he wore a short-sleeved checked shirt in a navy and white gingham, perfectly coordinated with Prince George’s navy and white striped nautical short-sleeved shirt with plain navy shorts.” Debenhams is crediting the growing mini-me fashion-followers with increasing sales by 36% of their new season childrenswear which complement styles and colours in the adult ranges.

While this ‘celebrity baby watch’ may seem like harmless fun, it’s worth noting there is a downside to it, with celebrities reporting it has resulted in their families being hounded by the paparazzi. Last year, a tearful Jennifer Garner and Halle Berry testified about their ‘terrified’ children, and a California bill was passed that would punish photographers for ‘harassing’ celebrity children, with penalties ranging from jail time to huge fines.

The actors Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard have started an online campaign against the ‘Pedorazzi’, with People magazine and the Just Jared website agreeing to boycott photographers who target celebrity children.

But as our appetite for photos of what celebrity children are wearing continues unabated, the thriving industry surrounding them seems unlikely to stop any time soon.

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