Baby Steps

Modeling in your own fashion show is the new rite of passage for teens

In a downtown loft Bow Wow Wow’s “I Want Candy” blared as Catherine Rex walked down a runway lined with footlights. She stopped and posed in an Armani skirt, a Geren Ford top, and Sergio Rossi heels. The fashion show wasn’t a press event—it was a sweet sixteen for Rex, who lives in Calabasas. Parents and siblings beamed from the audience as the high school sophomore and her friends strutted in authentic Dolce & Gabbana, Chloé, and Manolo Blahniks. “I’ve always wanted to do it,” says Rex. “Modeling is glamorous.” The event was a test by STYLE STAR, a new company that produces participatory fashion shows for adolescents. “Teenagers are insecure about weight and pimples. This transforms them,” says Nancy Lucas, a fashion publicist who started the company with stylist Elin Litzinger. “They come out feeling good about themselves.” Style Star isn’t therapy but rather, the owners hope, the next big thing in bat mitzvahs. Lucas and Litzinger have dropped off their own 13-year-olds at enough lavish shindigs (complete with catering, animals, rented celebrities) to believe there’s a market for their parties, which start at $40,000. Over-the-top children’s bashes are nothing new in this city, although the themes have changed. “Hollywood” and “disco” once ruled; now, thanks largely to America’s Next Top Model, fashion is gaining an edge. In 2008, playing dress-up is as much about labels as about flounces. “The kids are so savvy,” says Litzinger. “Not only do they know the names of Belgian designers, but they pronounce them correctly.”

On the Prowl
A fascination with Africa and desert neutrals has led the hunt for safari jackets, which, like jeans or driving shoes, have utilitarian roots. First worn by colonial Brits on expeditions and later adopted by photographers who loved the roomy pockets, the safari jacket crossed over to fashion in 1968 when Yves Saint Laurent included one in a collection. This spring designers reimagine the piece in lambskin at Hermès ($8,450 at Hermès, Beverly Hills, 310-278-6440), in cotton broadcloth at Michael Kors ($1,495 at Michael Kors, Beverly Hills, 310-777-8862), and in twill with soft short sleeves at Tracy Reese ($300).

Illustration by Kirsten Ulve