NEW YORK (FORTUNE) -
Abandon the high-design life when you have kids? Never! That's the message the latest wave of new parents are being sent by the retail industry.
A raft of hot clothing designers -- from Kate Spade to Marc Jacobs -- are now marketing to the under-8 set, while high-end furniture for kids is being hawked by mass-market brands across the spectrum. Publisher Condé Nast even launched a new magazine, Cookie, this month, targeting all the elements of stylish family life and attracting new advertisers to the parenting-magazine category.
But is it really about the children? Will baby be any more comfortable in a designer onesie? Articles in Cookie focus as much on keeping parents happy as on stimulating the kids (a travel article in the premiere issue promises "top beach destinations where your children can spread their water wings-and you can satisfy your wanderlust").
See the most extravagant items for the littlest consumers
"People who have made a commitment to a modern lifestyle don't want to have to close the door to the playroom because it clashes with their style," says Jordan Benjamin, spokeswoman for Design Within Reach, which has just launched a kids' catalog, "Jax," that offers high-style items from cribs ($699 and $1,298) to training bikes ($279) to a chalkboard dresser ($1,498).
Driving the surge in big spending on tiny people, says Michael Silverstein, a senior vice president at Boston Consulting Group and author of the book "Trading Up," is what he calls "prince and princess syndrome." That refers to parents who have a single child later in life, at a point when their well-developed careers leave plenty of cash for mini cashmere sweaters and monstrous $900 strollers.
Silverstein estimates the market for upscale baby products at $45 billion a year. That has attracted high-end houses like Dolce & Gabbana and Versace in recent years. Now Jacobs is testing out a few cashmere baby clothes in his New York City store this Christmas, while new mom Spade has relaunched her baby collection complete with cashmere, strollers, and dishes.
J. Crew plans an April 2006 rollout of a Crewcuts line for 2- to 8-year-olds, who can prep it up with broken in chinos and miniature "Legacy Blazers." This holiday season the company is offering a sneak peek with, naturally, more tiny cashmere sweaters.
A $450 bridle-leather baby carrier? Seriously?
Our pick for the next wave in the luxeing of childhood: Dispense with the talcum powder, it's time for Crème de la Mer diaper ointment.