It’s a small world
Dressing up is more than child’s play, as Ellie Fazan discovered when she attended Global Kids Fashion Week at Freemasons’ Hall
Outside Freemasons’ Hall, a photographer snaps a blonde in sunglasses and red-soled shoes easing herself out of a chauffeur-driven car. Clutching an immaculately presented baby in a pink tutu and sparkly headband, she’s here for the first ever Global Kids Fashion Week.
Organised by online retailers AlexandAlexa.com, which specialises in luxury childrenswear and educational toys, the event aims to showcase kids’ fashion as a fun and creative industry, highlighting it as a thriving platform in its own right, not just an ‘add on’ to the adult fashion industry.
With so many of London Fashion Week’s outstanding events taking place at Freemasons’ Hall, it was a natural choice for the inaugural Global Kids Fashion Week to follow suit. ‘We love the heritage of Freemasons’ Hall and its location is great. It’s easily accessible for the media and our guests from across London, as well as for our international visitors. The team have been wonderful to work with,’ says Alex Theophanous, CEO of AlexandAlexa.com
The emphasis is clearly on fun. A giant pink tree is dressed with puffy clouds of candyfloss and the champagne traditionally quaffed by the fashion crowd has been done away with in favour of cartons of juice, while a waitress hands out popcorn from a fairground-style machine. As they settle into their seats, girls in over-the-top party frocks and boys looking slightly less comfortable in slick suits delve into their goodie bags. It’s fair to say they are just as excited by the toys they find inside as what’s going on around them.
‘Just because it’s fun doesn’t mean this isn’t a serious business. It turns out that little people are very big business indeed’
A model performance
Adults make up the majority of the audience, which, as at other fashion shows, comprises celebrities (model Jodie Kidd and make-up artist Charlotte Tilbury are in the front row) as well as industry insiders. Only this time they’ve brought their children, and instead of sitting in moody silence they coo and giggle as the show begins.
The mini models take to the catwalk in new-season looks from brands such as SuperTrash Girls, which creates clothes specifically for children, and designer labels such as Chloé, which has branched out into childrenswear. Looks range from super bright and colourful to retro outfits with more than a hint of seaside nostalgia; from edgy rock star looks to adult mini-me clothes for baby fashionistas.
Some of the kids pout and swagger like pure professionals; others look a bit more stunned by the experience. But they’ve all been specially picked from acting and stage schools and by the end of the show are having such a riot that they forget to leave the stage and carry on dancing as a glitter cannon showers them in gold confetti.
Just because it’s fun, however, doesn’t mean this isn’t a serious business. It turns out that little people are very big business indeed. AlexandAlexa.com has seen a one hundred and fifty per cent growth in the past year and in the UK alone the children’s fashion market is estimated to be worth £650 million a year. But this isn’t just another clever marketing ploy to get people to spend more; all the money raised by this fashion show is being donated to Kids Company, a charity set up to provide support to vulnerable inner-city children.
‘We have worked with Kids Company in the past on fashion shows and have always admired its work. Also, a lot of the counselling that Kids Company undertakes is through the creative arts, which made it a perfect fit with our fashion agenda,’ explains Theophanous.
‘Wearing clothes is an aspect of their self-presentation that they can have control over’ – Camila Batmanghelidjh
The link between Kids Company and fashion isn’t as tenuous as it might first seem. Many of the children who come to the charity for help lack even the most basic clothes, and as Camila Batmanghelidjh, founder and director of Kids Company, explains: ‘For children who have experienced profound humiliation as a consequence of childhood maltreatment, wearing good clothes is the first step towards piecing together their shattered dignity.
It is also an aspect of their self-presentation that they can have control over.’
Kids Company has been working with young people to capture their thoughts on how fashion needs to embrace childhood and adolescence more appropriately. ‘It is in this context that we were really happy to partner with Global Kids Fashion Week,’ says Batmanghelidjh, adding that two of the youngsters from Kids Company worked backstage, gaining valuable work experience in the process.
After the show, chaos rules at an after party with nail painting, a photo booth and more popcorn. But this refreshing burst of colour and energy is contained within an anteroom. In the Hall’s grand hallway, normal activity carries on, oblivious to the confetti, the children and the candyfloss.
Gradually the crowd trickles away, parents taking their children by the hand, ushering them through Freemasons’ Hall. They are silenced by its size and greatness, and majesty reigns once more.
ABOUT KIDS COMPANY
Founded by Camila Batmanghelidjh, in 1996, Kids Company aims to provide practical and emotional support to vulnerable inner-city children. It reaches out to thirty-six thousand young people, of whom eighteen thousand receive intensive support. In extreme cases, the charity clothes, feeds and houses them; for others, it works towards creating a safe family environment and offers opportunities and support they would not otherwise receive.
The charity has developed a unique philosophy using the arts therapeutically and educationally in order to reach and assist traumatised children – and statistics show that this approach works.
Around eighty-one per cent of the young people who come to the charity are involved in crime; eighty-four per cent have experienced homelessness; and eighty-three per cent have sustained trauma. After Kids Company’s intervention, findings indicate a ninety per cent reduction in criminal activity, with ninety-one per cent of children going back into education and sixty-nine per cent finding employment.