MILLION-DOLLAR BABY

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A vehicle with white-leather trim, $150 jeans and a $1,000 chair. Clearly the signs of a well-heeled 30-something, right? Try a 2-year-old.

As fashionista parents flock to high-priced lux apparel and accoutrements for themselves, they are increasingly inspired to do the same for their offspring. That fact has stroller marketers like Bugaboo devising limited-edition, leather-lined strollers for $2,000, denim purveyors like Seven for All Mankind delving into mini-me styles, and even a diaper-bag manufacturer partnering with a design guru to market a four-figure highchair.

"There is an internal pressure these days among the brand-conscious that if you don't buy the good brand for your kid, you're really being an unfit parent," said Steve Granville, founder and CEO of high-end diaper-bag maker Fleurville.

Mr. Granville-though of course not perpetrating that guilt-is certainly the beneficiary of it. His line of $50 to $150 diaper bags have sold well since their launch in October 2002, in large part due to celebrities sighted with the bags in the pages of In Style, In Touch and Us Weekly. Now the company plans to tap further into guilt-ridden parents' wallets with a $400 all-leather diaper bag, the Luxe. And Fleurville is working with corporate designer Yves Behar to develop a home collection that includes a roughly $1,000-plus highchair in time for the holidays.

When Fleurville launched two-and-a-half years ago, its competition was minimal, with only Kate Spade's diaper bags and those of a similar startup, Petunia Pickle Bottom. Now there are more than 20 marketers in the space and $400 all-leather diaper bags are expected to be de rigueur this fall, according to Stacy Robinson, VP of better kids' apparel retailer LifeSize Kids and LifeSizeKids.com. "Diaper bags are more like a trendy handbag and if women have to spend $400 so be it, since many wouldn't think twice of spending that on their own purse."

Other hot trends for kids are cashmere, including Juicy Couture's $240 cashmere cardigan; name-brand denim, including Seven's $110-to-$150 line of jeans and jackets; and the $58-plus rock `n' roll T-shirts from Trunk. Prestige beauty marketers including Kiehl's Since 1851 and Estee Lauder Cos.' Bobbi Brown have both repackaged their baby lines to capitalize on the renewed interest in all things baby.

"People will do anything for their kids," said Andrei McQuillan, director-marketing for Trunk, as sales of the Mini Trunk line, which launched in November, can attest. The line of smaller-size high-end rocker tees featuring Blondie to the Beatles is doing "amazingly well," Mr. McQuillan said, as consumers willing to spend as much as $300 on a T-shirt for themselves will likewise shell out $50 to $80 to have their kids looking just as good.

`COOKIE'

Like with trendy adult fashions, much of the marketing for upscale kids' products is public-relations-based seeding of product with magazine editors and celebrities to get editorial mentions. But Fairchild Publications is banking on the growing pool of advertisers of upscale kids' products with the October launch of Cookie, which is intended to cater to the roughly 22 million U.S. households with incomes of more than $75,000 and children under 10.

Eva Dillon, VP-publisher of the title, said she expects advertising for the category to grow wildly in coming months as more European marketers like Dolce & Gabbana and Armani push for greater U.S. distribution of their junior lines and other designers like Marc Jacobs, jewelry designer David Yurman and even Coach delve into the kids' market. In Europe, at least eight magazines cater to upscale-family lifestyles and children's apparel; the U.S., she said, "has had no [ad] vehicle that represents the demo."

Kari Boiler, marketing director-USA for Bugaboo, said marketing is all about helping fashionable parents get over the the shock, as Ms. Boiler put it, of "oh no, I'm going to have Winnie the Pooh all over my stuff."

Because, as Bugaboo believes, if the upscale set wants funny characters, it will be those designed especially for them. Along with Dutch designer Bas Kosters, Bugaboo will this fall unveil strollers in the U.S. that feature the "fashion excitement" of the designer's colorful creations on a white background with a white leather handle. All for just $2,000. It's a bargain compared to a Mercedes.

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