The lighting is low, the event organisers are shouting frenzied instructions in to their buzzing walkie-talkies, and the press is shifty as they shuffle in their seats at the head of the ramp, trying to find the right angle and ready their lenses for the first model that will begin the show with a meandering gait.
A model strikes a pose in Oh My Gosh shorts, a piece from the niharika
collection (below right). Pics/ Yolande D'mello
The music is cued, the booming voice of the compere apologises half-heartedly for being "fashionably late" and the models begin their sashay for kids fashion brand Oh My Gosh, one of 19 brands to catwalk down the ramp of India's first kids fashion show. The three-day event, featuring this years Spring / Summer Collection, showcased designers like Rocky S, Narendra Kumar, Nishka Lulla and Malini Ramani alongside Indian and international brands like Barbie, Kidology, Little Kangaroos, Just for Kids, Mineral and Coochie Coo.
For a change, models weren't skinny, 6-feet tall women with chiselled faces and high heels but cuddly four-year olds that strutted their stuff, posed for the camera and enjoyed the rainbow of coloured fabrics that were specially designed for their age group. Some of the 3 feet-tall models were nervous and tottered down the 20-feet ramp like it was a trip to the principal's office, others seemed like superstars in the making. Little boys with spiked hair and oodles of attitude gave each other high-fives, did cartwheels while girls swayed their hips and arched their backs giving toothy smiles as they did an about turn at the end of the ramp and held a pose for the twinkling shutterbugs.
The audience, comprising designers, fashion critics and proud parents gushed and one couldn't help but remember of annual days in school where parents would ooh, aah and even aww at the theatrics of enthused participants. The clothing clearly wasn't the star at this show.
It all started in December, when 400 children were shortlisted after auditions were held at malls in New Delhi, Bengaluru and Mumbai. "Designers had specific requirements in terms of age that they were looking for, other than that we looked for confidence in the kids. All the make-up is edible for the children and each child walks for only one show so that they aren't too tired at the end of the show," said Manoj Mahla, director of Craft World Events Pvt Ltd that organised the show. They even had a child psychologist on the sets in case a child was stressed.
After the 30-minute show was done we headed backstage to be greeted with hyperactive children screaming and running helter-skelter followed by volunteers trying to calm them down. Six year-old Divya Chavan took time out from chasing a girl with a flower tiara to tell us about her long-term plans of becoming a full-time model. "Bipasha Basu is my style icon. I met her a couple of days ago and she gave me a kiss on my cheek. I don't mind missing school for the show because I want to be an actress when I grow up," she says. Each show required sthe children to practise for two hours before going on stage, though Chavan thought that was quite unnecessary considering her "talent". Looking pretty with pink blush that she had mostly consumed during the show, Raina Rao said she missed her mathematics lecture in school but made a lot of friends at the show so she didn't mind.
Before we could ask our next question the two had skipped away to ogle at girl in a butterfly top. We turned our attention to Shlok Sharma, aged 10, who wanted to keep the capri pants he was wearing because they were "so trendy". "I like Sonam Kapoor and Imran Khan because he is just so cool he doesn't have to try hard to look good," he explained. But though he liked the clothes he wasn't planning on making a career out of it. He said, "I want to be a pilot but for now I'm happy modelling."
While the industry may be nascent, there is nothing childish about the kids fashion industry, explains Mahla who has been planning the event for the last two years. "There are a lot of factors that decide why this is the right time for India Kids Fashion Week. Parents have more disposable income, they have one or two kids so they don't mind splurging and kids know what they want," he said. Estimates suggest that kids-gear will likely snowball into a Rs 85,000 crore market by 2014.