Monday 6 October 2008

In the brand garden

A local friend once lamented that what Nappy Valley lacks is a really good quality children’s clothes shop. At which I was puzzled, because surely there are plenty? Apart from the branches of Asda and Primark that I myself frequent, there is JoJo Maman Bebe on the Northcote road, or numerous little boutiquey places where you could easily spend a month’s salary on a woollen hat and gloves combo.

Then I realised; my friend has two girls. And little girls actually care about what they wear. The Littleboys, like most men, are indifferent to fashion. They might occasionally have a yen for a particular colour, but mainly, clothes for them are about keeping warm and spilling food on. And putting them on in the morning is often the last thing they want to do; much more exciting to carry on building a Lego castle, watching Lazytown or throwing Shreddies around the kitchen. They have to be bribed and cajoled into putting on their clothing (the threat of ‘well, if you don’t want to get dressed, we won’t be able to go to the park’ usually does the trick.) Only this morning, Littleboy 1 ran into the kitchen stark naked at 9am and confronted the Ocado man with a cry of 'What are you doing, Man?

But then I discovered the scary power of branding. And guess what? If it’s a Bob the Builder jacket, or a Mr Men shirt, whaddya know? They want to wear it.

I was initially loathed, however, to go too far down this route. Although I’m not one of those mothers who dresses up little boys in old-fashioned brogues and stripy shirts like mini country squires (although I do have a weakness for stripy pyjamas from The Little White Company), I don’t want to see them kitted out in branded gear all the time.

And then the Doctor’s cousin, H, got a new job. When we first heard where, we couldn’t actually believe it. He is a product designer, and has worked at numerous cosmetics-type places over the years including The Body Shop and Revlon. But now…well, he managed to wangle himself a job at the BBC working on In the Night Garden. (Expat mummies, if you don’t know what this is, get yourself over here, and watch in wonder at the weirdness).

It sounds either like a dream job or the job from hell, (depending on how much Iggle Piggle you can take). For ‘research’, he walks around toy shops or watches episodes of ITNG. He got to meet the famed creator of ITNG and Teletubbies, Andrew Davenport. I imagine there are a few editorial meetings he has to attend regarding plot and character development. But how difficult can this be, considering that 95% of the show is the same every day? I mean it’s not going to be, OK this is ‘the one where Makka Pakka sleeps with Upsy Daisy because she and Iggle Piggle were on a break’, is it? Or ‘let’s have the Pinky Ponk crash, leaving the characters on a desert island inhabited by polar bears?’

In fact, Cousin H takes it all very seriously. The last time we met, he accosted me with a copy of Charlie and Lola magazine and started quizzing me about the Littleboys’ favourite TV programmes. (This seemed particularly surreal coming from a 35 year old single guy-about-town who has no kids and previously used to devote himself to Arsenal matches.)

But best of all, he gets access to all the gear. Last time he came to supper, he turned up with a great armful of Makka Pakka sweatshirts and Iggle Piggle tops. The Littleboys, who are big fans of ITNG, were delighted.

So getting them dressed when they are not in the mood for it is no longer a chore. If I ask them what they want to wear, they think for a minute and then declare ‘Pakka!’. Not only that, but they attract attention from other kids in the playground, who take delight in pointing out the characters. Instant popularity.

So I might just have to give in to the power of branding….and meanwhile Cousin H will be getting plenty more supper invitations.


Waffle said...

OMG. Would your cousin H like a girlfriend? You know I would do anything for Makka Pakka. I have a bit of a crush on him.
Makka Pakka. Mmmm. I am very jealous.

Nota Bene said...

Ah the power of branding and the discovery that the right label gives you instant popularity...I see disaster lying ahead for your credit card when they move from ITNG to DKNY.

Unknown said...

Think yourself lucky, all my daughter wants on everything is Dora the bloody Explorer.
I've given in and bought Dora pants so far . . .
And for my son, if it doesn't feature Star Wars in some shape or form I might just as well take it back to the shop!

Iota said...

Don't get me started. Branding is so powerful, and it seems wrong that children should be targeted so young, but you can't blame the marketing guys - it's a big earner.

It's much worse over here, because (surprisingly) there are many fewer kids' characters to brand. For girls, it is Barbie, Disney princesses and Dora. For boys, Star Wars, Bob and the superheroes.

I find it really sad to see preschool girls fingering each other's fashion-wear. Yes, I know girls are inherently interested in clothes, but we have made them aware before they're even out of nappies, and obsessed before they're at school. A lot of the stuff is very un-child-friendly too - difficult fastenings, and too tight for real comfort.

This is one of my hobby horses. I think it's a symptom of something very sad about our society.

Gone Back South said...

It is a bit of a minefield. My son got it into his head that he didn't like jeans until I got him some cheap ones with naff 'army' trim on the pockets and he loves them!

Anonymous said...

My oldest is 12 and is only now just beginning to get in to clothes and fashion. (sort of) He has to go to school looking like one of the cool dudes!! T'other two couldn't care less!

Mutter said...

My boys were always pretty indifferent to their clothes until someone gave them all nylon football shirts for Christmas. Yuk! For months I could get them to wear little else. It's another form of pervasive brand marketing. So far cheap fakes have been acceptable to my non-savvy sons but I'm dreading the day someone points out that theirs are not the real McCoy.

Mom/Mum said...

My boys are just like me - they adore their jammies, so getting them out of them and into any acceptable outdoor clothing is a feat!
I try to stear clear of branded clothes, just because while I can control what they wear i will. Am sure like nota bene says, it won't be long before Bob The Builder is replaced by DKNY, but so far, the boys haven't taken much interest in the brand of their clothes. The oldest one is very particular about the colour of T shirt he wears sometimes and throws random hissy fits if I don't get the right colour out, when I don't even know what colour he was thinking of in the first place.
To be honest, they have a friend who loves Buzz Lightyear just as much as they do, and this little boys is always decked out in Buzz-logo clothes. I think it's too much and the kid looks ridiculous, so I avoid. I have given in to a request to some Batman jammies though....maybe am at the top of the slieepry slope...
btw - if it was free stuff I was given though, course I'd let them wear it!

nappy valley girl said...

Jaywalker - well, cousin H IS currently single (and is also remarkably good-looking). But what would the CFO have to say? And wouldn't you just be using him to get to Makka Pakka?

Nota Bene; they just won't be allowed to buy designer names, not while I'm wielding the credit card. I don't get to buy DKNY so they won't get to either!

Hi Tara - mine don't know about Dora yet, thank goodness. (Isn't it ridiculous that even pants get branded??)

Iota - it is sad. I hate the thought of kids just being a walking advert for some overhyped franchise. What irritates me is that so far, my kids only watch BBC children's programming which has no ads, but they still get targeted by the products that are spin offs from those shows!

GBS - I guess we all have to wear clothes our mums think are naff at some point....remember ra-ra skirts?

Hi Crunchiemummy - I guess it's inevitable once they hit the teens, but I do hope the Littleboys have a few more years of not caring whether they are 'cool' or not.....

Wife in HK - well you are in the right part of the world for fakes at any rate!

Mom/mum - yup, I also believe it's worth exerting some control while you can. I don't think I've ever actually bought them a branded item of clothing, actually - they are all presents....and you can definitely go too far. Poor old Buzz Lightyear child!

Waffle said...

Yeah, I am totally rumbled. I would be using him to get at that little bundle of felty goodness. Damn, evil plan foiled!

I lost any standards I had waaay back as far as horrid branded crapola goes. My theory is that I am reacting against my own childhood of Clothkits clothes and stridently sensible shoes.

Actually I am more embarassed by buying Mini Boden (though I do, frequently) than some fantastically tacky Pokémon number. Such a yummy mummy cliché.

Hadriana's Treasures said...

Hello..nappy valley girl..been reading your conversations with Frog. I'm afraid I'm with Iota on this one but yes...we are coerced into Barbie,Lola,Bob,Thomas...but not clothes..not yet at least!

nappy valley girl said...

Jaywalker: tacky rubbish and Mini Boden are just two ends of the extreme, aren't they?! (I think you may need help for the Makka Pakka obsession....have you rung the Cbeebies helpline?)

hi Hadriana - well spotted on the name change, no-one else seems to have noticed! I thought a discreet rebrand was in order as it was causing confusion in some quarters...

TheOnlineStylist said...

Small Child was was a huge ITNG fan and fell in love at first sight with Makka Pakka. (Did he have OCD washing all those rocks?!) It was somewhat trippy but it always calmed her down before bath time.
I don't like the branded stuff either - especially as its mostly made of nylon stuff. Fifi of the Flowertots fame p.j.'s equal one sweaty child - in fact she calls herself Sweaty Betty when she wears them! We too have just purchased some cotton check winter p.j.'s from White Company - much nicer and she likes practicing doing the buttons up so success all round!

Paradise Lost In Translation said...

I'm an ExPat mummy, what's 'In the Night Garden'?