Parfum - pour bb

Will British babies ever smell as sweet as their French cousins? Tamsin Blanchard reports

Men and women can now share each other's perfume. They can also, believe it or not, share their toddlers'. Over the past year, an increasing number of parfums for bb have been quietly creeping on to the perfume counters of department stores all over the country. They are aimed at the more sophisticated baby, the sort of child who either wears, or aspires to wear, designer clothes to match its designer scent. And like Calvin Klein's CK One, available in the UK later this year, it is for little boys and girls, just like Baby Wipes or Johnson's baby talc.

"The English are frightened of baby fragrance but the French love it," says Michelle Levy, manageress of the Knightsbridge branch of Jacadi, a French childrenswear company which sells a range of baby bath products as well as perfume. "You can't imagine putting fragrance on a baby. It sounds horrendous," she admits. "Some mothers look at it but just can't understand it. But once a mother buys it, she comes back for more. I think it will definitely catch on with British mums, eventually."

Henry's mother, who is browsing, does not agree. "Totally unnecessary," she snaps. Meanwhile, Henry holds out his wrist as he has seen his mother do in the perfumery at Harrods. He looks on curiously as some of the perfume, which comes in a child-friendly squidgy plastic bottle, is squirted on him. He tries to lick it, and smiles. "It smells nice, mummy," he says. Perhaps this is why mothers end up wearing the £6.50 fragrance themselves: their children like the smell.

Mrs Costes is pushing a pram round the baby-gro section. She is French. I ask her if she would like to try the Jacadi baby scent. "It's without alcohol?" she asks. It is. "No problem," she shrugs. The idea of baby perfume is perfectly natural to her.

Across the road from Jacadi, in the Harrods perfumery, the nice lady behind the Guerlain counter is cooing reassuringly: "It's very soft, very gentle." She is squirting Petit Guerlain on to the back of my hand, telling me that it is popular with the Japanese, and is good for people with allergies. It smells pleasant and lemony. "But isn't it for babies?" I ask. "Oh yes, but only the most sophisticated babies. It is a sophisticated perfume."

Baby fragrances are widely available on the Continent. Mrs Mason, mother of two, buys her children cologne called Nenuco from Spain each year and has used it on her children, James, two, and Sophie, seven, since they were born. In fact, the scent has been in the family since the birth of Mrs Mason's little sister in 1972. The attraction is the fresh, clean smell which friends and other parents often comment on. No matter how dirty a baby gets, it will at least smell clean with eau-de-Cologne.

In France, the idea of buying perfume for your baby is as normal as buying nappies. Anouk Morgan is half-French, half-English, and both she and her mother thought that all babies wore cologne. One of Anouk's earliest memories is of being splashed with a baby scent after her bath. "I was told it was to stop you growing mushrooms," she says.

Givenchy's Ptisenbon (which presumes Baby has a basic grasp of French pronunciation as well as a finely tuned nez) makes no promises about arresting fungal growth. Launched in Europe in 1987, it was developed instead to complement the fashion house's children's wear range, Tartine et Chocolat. Sold here since September, it comes in a range of products, just like mum's. There is eau-de-toilette, shampoo, soap and bath gel, all available in eau- de-senteur, which means it is alcohol-free, so no danger of burning Baby's skin. Perfect.

There is something very un-British about the use of perfume, unless it is Old Rose or lavender water. Givenchy sells twice as much adult perfume in France as it does in the UK. As Peter Norman, managing director of Givenchy Parfums in the UK, says: "Champagne is French, perfume is French; it is part of their heritage. We drink more malt whiskey." But as more and more children are introduced to it from an early age, we too could become a nation of perfume connoisseurs. Mr Norman is predictably confident: "People in this country are coming round to the idea of children's fragrances. I see no reason why it won't catch on on the same scale as in Spain, Italy and France."

Sounds suspiciously like a cynical attempt at attracting the perfume and aftershave buyers of the future, seducing young innocents into the beauty myth before they have time to catch their breath. And once they've outgrown their toddler smells, Givenchy, for one, is ready with a teen version, Fleur d'Interdit.

Jessie, three, and Fred, nearly six months, won't have this treat in store. Their mother, Barbara Downs, is horrified at the thought of spraying perfume on her children. "You can't beat their own smell, so why add to it? It would be like painting a lily."

Back at at the Givenchy counter a mother is saying that the aromatic, atmospheric Ptisenbon makes her want to have babies all over again. It surely won't be long before Calvin Klein launches CK For All The Family.

Lucerne’s Hotel Château Gütsch, one of the lots in our Homeless Veterans appeal charity auction
charity appeal
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

    £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

    Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

    £40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

    Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

    £70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

    Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - Nationwide - OTE £65,000

    £30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...

    Day In a Page

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
    La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

    Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

    The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
    10 best high-end laptops

    10 best high-end laptops

    From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum
    France's Front National and the fear of a ‘gay lobby’ around Marine Le Pen

    Front National fear of ‘gay lobby’

    Marine Le Pen appoints Sébastien Chenu as cultural adviser