“When can I do it again?” six-year-old model Skye asked LAHA Clothing founder Lillian Jones following her “An Evening of Fashion” Sunday night at the SLU Busch Student Center.
The show was over. The seats were empty.
“Can you wait until next year?” Jones asked Skye.
“I want to do it again right now,” Skye said to Jones.
And so she did. Jones held her coat as she made her way up and down the empty runway, encouraging little Skye with a few calls of “get it, girl” and “work it” as she strutted down the catwalk for an audience of one.
“Okay, now when am I going to be able to do again in front of all of those people?” Skye asked.
“Call me next year,” Jones responded.
“What’s your phone number?” Skye fired back.
“You can get it from your mother.”
Skye was still beaming with excitement after LAHA’s fashion extravaganza – and she wasn’t the only one. From the moment the show opened with Alicia Keys’ latest hit “Girl on Fire,” there was an energy in the room that was impossible to describe.
More than 1,000 parents, family, friends, supporters and fellow fashionistas came to see LAHA present 130 child young models – ages 3-18 – wearing outfits by 10 designers.
Some of them should have been barely able to walk, yet they gave the sass that child stars are made of in outfits that ranged from all black, neon tutus, leopard prints and everything in between.
“What you saw, I didn’t see,” said Jones, who was parked in the dressing room helping the models transition from scene to scene. “At some points I would hear the crowd and I would be like, ‘Okay, it’s going good,’ because I hear cheers and laughter and I hear things erupting.”
The standing room audience was beyond amused as they brought fierceness in all shapes and sizes, from toddler and tween to nearly adult.
“Never in a million years did I imagine something like this,” Jones said. “It makes my heart beat with joy because it’ me doing something that I love.”
More than clothes
LAHA Clothing started out with Jones designing and creating one-of-a-kind outfits for her daughter Heaven, but that has grown into an experience that has the potential to be life-changing.
“Parents bring their kids for different reasons,” Jones said. “Some bring them because they want to be a model. Some parents bring their kids because they want to build their self-esteem. Others bring them because they are trying to figure out what their kids want to do. If they left with something positive, that’s all that I could hope for.”
Over the six weeks the children prepared for the show, they spent as much time learning life lessons as they did perfecting pony walks and signature poses.
“I talk about confidence and self-esteem,” Jones said. “I talk about walking into a room and always having your head held up. I talk about being an individual and that just because your friend looks a certain way that’s not the way you are supposed to look. People leave with a lot of confidence. Confidence can take you a lot of places.”
Boys in tuxedoes
For the first time in the three years she has been showcasing children in fashion, Jones had enough male models to warrant their own scene in a show.
“Some never had a suit on – some thought you were supposed to sag with a suit on,” Jones said. “To see that come to life, with my boys dressed in tuxedos and suits, was just wonderful.”
She went from a mere three boys to more than a dozen in 2012. And as they walked to a mash-up of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” and Deniece Williams’ “Let’s Hear it For The Boy,” OutKast’s “So Fresh So Clean” would have probably been equally appropriate as the young men oozed cool.
“Just to do that was something off of my bucket list,” Jones said.
The fact that Jones is making a splash on the fashion scene is a lifelong wish fulfilled as well.
Jones said, “I guess ‘blessed’ would be the word to be used, and very thankful – to the designers, the parents, the stylists, supporters and the babies.”