Monday, May 3, 2010

another annoying, fierce designer... who happens to be 10.

Move over Kira Plastinina! Meet Cecilia Cassini.

Her idol is Coco Chanel. She has a taste for vintage fabrics. She has her sights set on the runways of Paris. And she's 10.

While other children were reading "Cinderella" and watching "Dora the Explorer," Cecilia Cassini was polishing her reading skills by flipping through Lucky and Vogue, and preparing a third-grade book report on "The Devil Wears Prada." And now, what started with a birthday gift of a sewing machine has blossomed into a fledgling fashion business with the help of manager Pilar DeMann, the woman who plotted the Kardashians' path from C-level obscurity to branding juggernaut.

Cecilia, a spunky fifth-grader from Encino, Calif., is selling her collection of one-of-a-kind girls' dresses at Lifesize at Fred Segal Santa Monica, where she will have a trunk show Saturday.

Her look is homespun but sassy, with simple dresses constructed from a skirt in one fabric and a bodice - strapless or tank-style - in another. The pieces are quirky cute with sequin, fabric rosette or bow details.

Billed as "the youngest fashion designer in the country," she has already been a guest at New York Fashion Week (trailed by a German TV crew), launched a slick e-commerce site and garnered corporate sponsors and interest from several TV producers.

DeMann thinks she is an ideal role model for young girls. Cecilia is a wholesome kid who doesn't want to watch TV and play video games all day. "She just wants to sew dresses and inspire other kids."

Her parents are as baffled as anyone about where the young designer gets her fashion sense. "When she was a baby, before she could walk, before she could talk, she was pointing to the outfits she wanted," says mom Michelle Cassini, a yoga instructor who doesn't own a single piece of Chanel. "As soon as she could use scissors, she was turning clothes into something new."

At age 5, she cut up her older sister's Betsey Johnson dress when no one was looking, cinched it with ponytail holders, folded up the hem and taped it, customizing the design to her taste. "I have always loved fashion since I was little," Cecilia says. "I was painting my nails when I was like 2."

For her 6th birthday, she asked for a sewing machine, and she took a few lessons. "But the teacher wasn't so nice and told me something didn't match when I thought it did." The budding designer wanted total creative control.

At 7, she wrote her first letter at school to Coco Chanel. By age 8, she had designed a logo based on the Eiffel Tower. But her big break came last year at Tough Cookies, a children's shop in Sherman Oaks, Calif., when Michelle mentioned to the owner that her daughter made dresses. That led to a trunk show where Cecilia sold 50 pieces.

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