It's 5pm and backstage at Dubai Mall's fashion catwalk, the green room is packed. A glam squad of make-up artists, hair and wardrobe stylists are putting finishing touches on the models who are getting ready to walk the runway.
Only for this show, some of the models will have to be carried or toddle their way down the runway because they've only just learnt to walk. And their excited mums are hoping they won't cry or need feeding right before their fashion debut. These children are here to model Babyshop's Autumn/Winter collection. The 25 excited youngsters, from just 12 months to 12 years old, are finalists in the Babyshop Talent Hunt. Following auditions, these budding sartorialists were chosen, from more than 6,000 contestants in a nationwide contest, to take part in the final catwalk show.
"This is the first time a clothier for children has conducted a talent hunt on such a scale in the UAE," Rahul Saxena, the head of marketing for Babyshop says. "We wanted the children who wore our brand to be our models." The children will also feature in the store's 2011 Autumn/Winter catalogue.
Smart and self-assured, ten-year-old Sachio Kekuti has all the trappings of an upcoming Hollywood star. A grade four student at the American School of Abu Dhabi, he was told he was too young to be a star in his native California. Now he's proving the Hollywood-types wrong by opening the show with his confidence and stylish swagger.
Eight-year-old Pristine Akari, a Japanese expatriate, looked like she was a front-row regular with her professional walk, while ten-year-old Salma Maroof, a British citizen of Bahraini origin, stole the audience's heart with her swanlike grace. With ambitions to model in the future, she says she wanted to be the next Kate Moss. "I am very happy and excited to be part of this show," she says.
Far from being scared by the bright lights and large audience, the children lapped up their moment in the spotlight. Proud mum Paula Ringrose, whose 22-month-old Ava was a model in the show, says it was a great family experience and an exciting opportunity.
"The children had so much fun and so did the mothers," she says.
Tauqeer Hussain, a Pakistani expatriate and the father of three-year-old Yousef Tauqeer agrees. "I think it is a fantastic platform. It will help my child gain confidence." Model behaviour indeed!