Two pairs of high-heel shoes are thrust before Lía Edlin Miller of East Northport, one black, the other silver. A decision must be made. Which one should the model wear?
Lía, who is 8 years old, holds them up to a maxi dress with cascading colorful ruffles and makes a snap decision. "Probably the silver," she says.
She asks the model to put on the shoes and strut as if on the runway. "OK, now we know you can walk in them," Lía says, and moves on to her next decision: whether to pin a pink flower into the hair of a model wearing a pink and orange tie-dyed jumpsuit.
Lía is about to exhibit 10 children's outfits she created and sewed herself at a fashion show at the Hotel Pennsylvania in Manhattan. The third-grader from Dickinson Avenue Elementary School thinks she knows what she wants to be when she grows up -- a fashion designer. Last week she got practical experience during a marketing showcase.
The showcase was one of hundreds of events that private companies get mileage out of the excitement around the official fashion week. In this one, run by Plitzs Fashion Marketing, emerging designers paid $700 to $2,500, hoping for exposure to the fashion world gathered in the city for the major events.
Lía's first experience with fashion shows came when she started walking the runway for other Plitzs events. But after she started watching TV's "Project Runway," she decided she wanted to create clothes like the contestants on the show. "They really inspired me and I wanted to try it for myself," Lía says.
"She kept asking and asking," says mom Naomi Edlin-Miller. So Edlin-Miller started Lía on lessons with Kathryn Hunt, who teaches private sewing classes as the Fashion Geek in East Northport. Lía would say, "I want to make this pattern but I want a V-neck and I want it longer than the pattern," Edlin-Miller says.
Says Lía: "I love to be colorful. I like to use blue and purple and pink. I love deciding what I'm going to make and how I'm going to make it. It makes me feel so good that I did it myself."
Mom saw an advertisement for a New Jersey Fashion Week design competition taking place at the Crayola Experience in Easton, Pennsylvania, in September. After Lía participated, incorporating Crayola crayon wrappers into her dresses, she wanted more.
So Lía joined student designers from Stevenson University in Maryland, and adult designers from Ukraine, New York and Barbados in the Plitzs show, which swarmed with makeup artists, hair stylists and models. Lía was the youngest designer in the showcase -- before her, the youngest was 12, says Wayne Shields, company founder.
"It might be a phase she's going through, or it could be someone we're talking about 15 years from now in the big time," Shields says of Lía. He called her clothes "carefree" and "whimsical."
Most of the audience at the fashion show came to see daughters, nieces, grandchildren or friends model or exhibit. Lía dubbed her 10 outfits "Lía's Stardust Designs." They included a jumpsuit, maxi dresses, pants outfits and skirt sets.
Sydney Lasomser, 12, of Manhattan, modeled Lía's pink, cheetah-print dress with beads along the bottom. "It's good to start at a young age," Sydney says. "When you get older, you've learned how to do more designs."
Lía doesn't have stock -- she's got one of each item -- so they are not for sale.
Says Mom: "Do I think at 8 years old somebody's going to pick her up? Not necessarily. Is it exposure in that people see her being out there? Yes."