Who knew that baby clothes could be such a treacherous minefield of consumer etiquette? This weekend, Laura Tenison OBE – founder of ethical baby fashion empire Jojo Maman Bébé (which, incidentally, it is impossible to say in anything other than an offensive French accent) – blundered onto a Facebook page for secondhand JMB items and posted an unfocused rant to the group at large about its use of Jojo Maman Bébé website photos. She also criticised the group’s pricing: "If this is not taken serious we will have to ask Facebook to close down the group – which would be a shame because we like the hand-me-down culture – when the prices are fair. Why anyone would pay near to full price or full price sometimes plus postage for something second hand is crazy.”
Although this morning Tenison apologised unreservedly (“Late-night posting is never a good idea. I had just come back from watching Trainspotting 2. I’m human and I made a mistake”), understandably some of the group members are still miffed, calling the message “condescending”, “snotty” and an “epic PR fail”.
And I can see their point. Baby clothes are blisteringly expensive – and this is the case even if you don’t encrust your kid in Swarovski crystals or statement pieces from Kim and Kanye’s upcoming baby range. For instance, I dress my son in a mix of 50 per cent cheapo supermarket-own basics, 30 per cent ethically-sourced, bleach-free, designer-led, unisex items that make him look like he runs the world’s first cereal cafe with its own cat DJ and unicycle repair corner, and 20 per cent hand-me-downs.
Hand-me-downs are straight-up amazing. Hand-me-downs and secondhand clothes are the cornerstones of a cost-effective kids’ wardrobe
Hand-me-downs are straight-up amazing. Hand-me-downs and secondhand clothes are the cornerstones of a cost-effective kids’ wardrobe. I don’t have much extended family in the UK, but when I was pregnant, pretty much all of my husband’s cousins delivered truckloads of hand-me-down baby clothes to our door. They aroma of various fabric softeners filled the house for weeks. Some of the clothes were bobbly with love and washing, some had well-chewed sleeves, some had other kids’ names on them – I didn’t care; I was grateful for all of them, because they meant that my son was warm and clothed. Plus, given that babies outgrow clothes in a matter of weeks – and that single items of kids’ clothing can run to the cost of an adult pair of shoes – these lovingly packaged and preserved bags of clothes saved me a fortune.
With baby clothes so expensive – and, as a luxury brand, Jojo Maman Bébé presumably turning a tidy profit – it does seem a bit churlish that its founder would come down so hard on mums just trying to get by (and score some nice frocks in the process). But there’s another side to this, of course. The mercenery mum reseller. To go onto eBay and search for preloved baby clothes is to find a clutch of them on sale for a prices uncannily close to the original retail value. I mean, come on. Your kid has worn those dungarees day in, day out for a year – there’s felt tip on the inside and the bottoms are frayed, but you’re charging upwards of £20 plus postage? I get that you’re trying to turn a profit, but that seems a bit… off. If you’re a struggling mum reselling items to other struggling mums, perhaps price your items a little kindly.
As for me, as my son outgrows his clothes I will fold them, weep over how my son is no longer tiny enough to fit into them, then bin the irrevocably stained stuff, keep the things I’m attached to, and give the rest away. So basically, if you have a toddler and you like leggings and sweatshirts with foxes and bears and Viking sagas on them, then my local charity shops are the place for you. And if you see a small woman on her knees outside, arms outstretched to the sky, wailing “WHY DON’T THEY MAKE THESE IN ADULT SIZES?” then that’s probably me, addressing the real crime in baby clothing.