OPINION: Mills on ... Dolce & Gabbana Junior

One of the perils (and joys) of writing this column is the risk of revealing hitherto-hidden prejudices. Some of mine - about certain types of parents - happen to be especially deeply held. In my experience, deeply held prejudices are the only ones worth having. It doesn't take much to flush them out.

The subject is designer-label clothes for babies and toddlers - Armani Junior, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada, Ralph Lauren, Burberry and so on. The whole category offends me, but I happen to have chosen this Dolce & Gabbana Junior ad because it's the worst of its type. I hate it with a passion.

It makes my stomach turn. I want to rip it out and stuff it down D&G's throats. Not many ads do this to me, with the exception perhaps of Benetton.

Of course, when you have such a visceral reaction to something, it often says more about you than the thing you hate. But that's up to the readers to judge.

I saw this ad (and others like it) in a new magazine called Dad. As magazines go, it's an interesting idea. Like Loaded (although in a different way) and Wallpaper, it looks like it's cunningly timed to catch the new-dad zeitgeist, what with all this paternity leave legislation and work-life balance stuff.

Be that as it may. It's the ads that get me going and, as luck would have it, Dad is stuffed full of designer baby gear ads. There's plenty to hate.

I will be the first to admit that there may be a certain inconsistency at work here. When it comes to advertising I'm in the "if-it's-legal-they-should-be-able-to-advertise-it" camp. I've never objected to tobacco ads, or indeed ads for any of the so-called "sin" products. But these ads are something else, and although this one happens to make the children look like child prostitutes in a Third World city hoping to catch the eye of First World tourists - surely not a responsible thing to do in a time of heightened paedophile awareness - that's incidental. Even if the ad made the children look as pure as choristers (and the Armani Junior ones do), my reaction would still be the same.

So what's to hate about these ads? Partly, it's what they represent.

From a strictly utilitarian perspective, what is the point of spending a fortune on clothes for toddlers when a) they'll be sick on them or get them filthy, b) they'll grow out of them quickly, and c) they don't appreciate them anyway?

Even worse, what if your children did appreciate wearing designer clothes?

Are those the kinds of values we really want four-year-olds to have? Imagine a whole generation of children who believed that unless something had the right label it had no value. I've got three teenage sons and, believe me, I know what label tyranny is. It beats me why anyone would want to encourage it any earlier.

So I don't like what ads like this can do for children, but I especially don't like the kind of people who might be influenced by them.

Designer baby clothes make me think of designer babies, which makes me think of designer-style parents. They're the ones who treat their babies as accessories, as items to be shown off and as a demonstration of superior parental taste or wealth - or both. This is competitive parenting of a particularly obnoxious kind.

Even worse, it preys on the natural insecurity all parents feel. Yes, we all want to do the best for our children and fearful that we'll fail, but those fears are more properly directed to issues such as education, upbringing, instilling the right social and ethical values and so on.

It's not about making parents feel bad because they're not dressing, or can't afford to dress, their children in the right gear.

When ads reflect society values like this, it's time to get worried.

Maybe Naomi Klein was right after all.

Dead cert for a Pencil? Pah!

File under ... D for dubious.

What would the chairman's wife say? "So what if the children look like

child prostitutes? The clothes look great."