Ah, Petite Parade. The allure! The hustle! The bustle! A few years ago, when the event was a BIG event, all the model moms in the New York market would start in September or January (about two months before the event) to seek information about castings and designers. The event used to be sponsored by Vogue Bambini magazine, which lent it a certain je ne sais quoi that involved one part kids’ couture, one part Milan, and two parts fashion week – a pretty cool recipe. Some designers always went; some went in the spring or the fall; and some were surprises. Each of the two days, a major company would open the show – Target, JC Penney, and Truly Scrumptious are the ones that immediately pop into my head. Toward the end of the show on the second day, the editors of Vogue Bambini would style a “showcase” of two or three looks from emerging designers. Each day might feature five or more designers, so there were a ton of kids involved. It has gotten smaller over the past few cycles, down to one day and fewer household-name designers. Apparently, it's quite expensive for designer to show their lines, and they have to cost-benefit analyze being part of the show.
When the show was bigger, several shows did castings through agencies. While some shows have always relied on their designers, stylists and photographers to help with casting, those bigger brands and the Vogue Bambini show always did their castings through agencies. It made the whole process more predictable (the castings would be the week before) and seemed to up the “hype” when the go-see requests would come out. Of course, the model-mom grapevine would HEAT UP with scuttlebutt – what sizes are they casting? What look? Boys and girls? The shows would have fittings the day before – and that’s when the clothes were revealed. Cool, if you ask me. But the clothes tend to be secondary to the whole excitement of the process.
Two times we did Petite Parade my daughter was scheduled to walk in an early show and a late show, which meant a whole day there – call time is three hours before the show (hairstyles typically took a long time, but most of it was waiting around – designers don’t want ANY anxiety about late arrivals) so I would literally pack as if I were going to be stranded on an island. A bag of toys and amusements for the kids that could be spread over several kids and not be any big deal if lost or left behind (dollar spot Target helped me there) was essential – my daughter was really young (that means got bored easily) for those first few shows, and I needed to keep her happy for hours. The biggest hit among all the kids were a couple of bags of multi-colored vampire teeth…lots of cute pictures that time. Adult amusements were essential, which meant food and wine. Yes, wine. By the third go ‘round, I brought a box of wine. Quantity, not quality was the order of the day (although my sommelier friend – shout out! – has never let me live it down…checkout HER wine blog here) – and enough people had a nip to help the hours pass relatively painlessly. This is also where I would pack the power strip I mentioned in my model-mom bag post – I learned that after my first year, when probably 100 parents were in a studio with maybe 4 outlets. It’s important to note here that a large chunk of the excitement about your kid walking in Petite Parade is the opportunity to hang out with a ton of other parents.
Meanwhile, the kids would be readied by designers and stylists. In the years of the bigger shows, it was in an adjacent studio, behind a magic curtain. Not really a great place for keeping an eye on your kids, but the parents would be taking turns peeking in to make sure all the kids were doing well. And they loved the whole thing too – it was like a playdate for them, as we often say. In more recent shows, the parent area and the staging area were more combined which upped the hectic factor multiple times, but some of us preferred to have a better view of our kiddos. About an hour before each show, kids would do a practice walk down the runway and learn how to stop and pose at the end. A photographer, Richard Renda, led that process from the photo pit, and he made sure every kid knew how to stop, gaze at the photographers, and wait for him to send them back. Despite decent rehearsals, my daughter quite notoriously bucked those instructions back when she was three, and developed her own trademark style for the runway – one time she was super shy and kind of froze and the next time she leapt down the runway (to Katy Perry’s “Roar” – totally fitting). The older kids always did muuuuuch better. Parents could watch the rehearsals, because there were no guests in the studio – which brings me to parents watching the actual shows.
It’s important to remember that the shows are for invited guests – store buyers, fashion bloggers, trend watchers and a couple of VIPs (P. Diddy made an appearance one time to watch his daughters). Parents were allowed to filter in once all of the guests were seated, and maaaaybe there would be seats (and swag bags!) available. Otherwise, it was standing room only. One time, the showrunners did not let parents into the main studio for the show, and that caused a major freak out – parents want (and pretty much need, legally speaking, according to child performer labor laws) to see what their kids are doing, and needless to say some phone calls got made and parents were allowed in for the next show.
After the runway, the routine was for the kids to be photographed backstage for the designers so they would have crisp, clear pictures of their lines. The method for doing this changed based on the photographer – sometimes it would be an organized lineup and other times it was a little more catch-as-catch-can. Then poof – get the clothes off and head on home. For the most part, you could count on some exhaustion and probably a headache from both the noise and the tension of keeping your kid human for so many hours (at least for me). You may or may not have a hairspray and bobby pin situation to work out when you got home.
The next part is actually just about as exciting as the runway itself. Trawling social media in the hours after the show – hoping to see your kid! Obsessing over photo sites online – like Getty Images and Shutterstock – to see pics of your kid. Stalking YouTube to see if anyone filmed the shows – to see your kid. Friends sharing pics – and again, you’re hoping to see your kid. Discovering new photographers – to see your kid! It sounds kind of creepy, but it’s actually a lot of fun.
So that’s a rundown. The actual event itself is hectic. I guarantee if you plop a casual observer into the whole experience, you might get a “Why the EFF do you do this?” But, for many model moms, the whole thing is a ton of fun. You also hear a few “Never again!”s, but really…it’s like labor – you forget, and there you are the next time, carrying your box of wine and vampire teeth.
A final word to any grammarians out there -- sorry about all the switches in verb tense...I found myself telling about past events but incorporating ongoing opinions...and I realize it may be a mess.
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|It's Air Biz. Photo credit: Lev Radin|