March 10, 2012

World's Youngest Fashion Designer


Twelve-year-old Cecilia Cassini was only ten when she first showcased at New York City's Fashion Week 2010 in Bryant Park. After receiving her first sewing machine as a sixth birthday present, Cecilia made unique dresses which several professional adults assured her "did not match."

Cecilia's mom, however, believed in her and decided to show several of her daughter's pieces to a boutique owner in Sherman Oaks, California (near the Cassini family's LA home.) Apparently the shop owner was so impressed by the pieces that he hosted a trunk show featuring Cecelia. The sale was a complete sell-out, and a fashion career was born.

I actually love this look on Bella Thorne
I've been following Cecilia on and off since fashion DIY blog Chic Steals featured a post about the release of her first collection. She has  debuted at Fred Segal and collaborated at Ugg Australia. She even has the dreamy distinction of designing clothing for starlets such as Miley Cyrus, Heidi Klum, Brooke Shields, and Bella Thorne. When asked about her aspirations, Cecilia says she sees herself showcasing at every fashion week around the world in the future. Also, she wants to make a dress for Lady Gaga.

Although Cecilia's career has been going as well as any junior-high fashionista could hope, her press has involved a pretty even mix of rave reviews and caustic criticism.

Even back in October of 2010, a story about her surfaced on Gawker.com describing her as "unbearably precocious." Contributor Richard Lawson states in the harsh article,

"Look, I'm sure that Cecilia is a perfectly nice child who does perfectly nice things and leads a perfectly nice life. But her presence on this show was just so terrifyingly trying to be adult — not in the cute-ish way that all kids try, in a 'I've studied playback of The Hills for months' way."


Lawson's argument (and the argument of bloggers and YouTube commenter's worldwide) is that Cecilia's childhood has been truncated by the fashion industry. 

Is childhood dead for youngsters breaking into the fashion, film, and even music industries? Or is this just a phenomenon that the "appearance-obsessed" designers and showcasers of fashion have imposed on young girls and boys?


Or is there no problem at all? Are people like Lawson overreacting?

To quote my husband (because he is an expert, lol), "I think being in the public eye encourages an unhealthy self concept. Most children don't have the decision-making capabilities or the strong sense of identity needed to determine what is important. What's important for children is to learn who they are, how to respect themselves, and how to respect others. A lot of children and adults in pop culture fall into the trap of 'oh, this is all about me and my talent.' There is a lack of responsibility and respect--the things that children need to be learning to develop as they grow up."

Remember the summer 2011 French Vogue controversy with 10-year-old model Thylane Blondeau?
 This is a good point. Being involved in fashion can be dangerous for any person of any age who has a lack of responsibility and self-respect. These are the girls who will do anything to "be good enough" for the industry. They often end up with eating disorders and other self-destructive behaviors in an attempt to either fit in or stand out.

Not to say that girls (and guys) of all ages can struggle with these issues, but the emotional immaturity of children like Cecilia can certainly make them more susceptible.

What does the Wintour-wannabe herself have to say on the topic?


"I still want to look like a young girl," she says, "I love booties. They’re not too grown-up looking, and the heel is just high enough that I feel like I am wearing a high heel but still look appropriate for [my age]."

Let's hope that Cecilia is reflecting her attitude accurately and that she is not missing out on the opportunity to "be a kid" and develop healthy habits before getting lost in the world of fashion, media, and pop culture.

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