Like a proud grandfather, Oscar de la Renta beamed from one side of a runway Wednesday high above 42nd Street as bite-size models showed off his first full children's collection for spring, a garden party of floral and lace party dresses for girls and classic layered looks for boys.
One lucky little model hitched a ride in a wagon painted in a blue petal design to complement her red dress in the same print. Two boys toted skateboards for their strut down the runway and two others glided on scooters.
Some had their end-of-runway pause before the cameras down like the bigger pros - and all wore huge smiles. The young walkers ranged in age from 3 to 9.
De la Renta launched a small collection of kidswear for spring of this year, expanded it for fall 2012 and now has a more extensive spring line for 2013. Though far from the priciest, he's among top fashion designers pushing more expensive duds for the increasingly lucrative toddler-with-bucks market, though many of the fancy formal frocks or playwear fall within range for a special gift from a loved one.
Dolce & Gabbana and Marni also launched kid collections this fall as luxury stores Nordstrom and Bergdorf Goodman expand children's sections. Also showing at New York Fashion Week this time around was Ralph Lauren, a holiday collection introducing a young customer to his mix of oft-layered patterns and textures.
There were colored skinny cords and flouncy short skirts paired with puffer jackets, tuxedo shirts and chunky sweaters on Lauren's kid runway earlier in the week.
De la Renta, known for his $5,000 romantic cocktail dresses, struggled to come up with the right partner who also shared his view that clothes should be appropriate for children, said CEO Alex Bolen, the designer's son-in-law.
The fashion house also wanted to make sure prices would be relatively affordable, to let the designer reach new customers who felt intimidated by heftier price tags for women.
Generally, de la Renta children's party dresses last season didn't exceed $350. Kid offerings from other designers can exceed $500.
In lime, light pink and magenta, he worked in cotton and twill for spring, with some silk thrown in.
Some of the girls wore hand-crocheted jackets in light pinks and blues.
One linen dress in turquoise as a dotted wrap. Many had big bows that tied behind the back. His florals were gardenia, azalea and iris, with an ikat pattern in navy and turquoise. A white summer dress was done in cotton eyelet lace.
A white linen party dress had flower applique in navy. Another had a chenille bodice in silk with a raffia silk skirt. He tiered a formal dress in taffeta in ice blue, with silk fringe.
Stripes and plaids in bright blues and muted tones ruled for boys dressed in cotton twill shorts, cargo pants and trousers in poplin and twill. One boy wore a turquoise seersucker cotton blazer with matching shorts. Another wore red shorts and a blue and long-sleeve red print button shirt with a stripe belt.
A multicolor check cotton button shirt was worn with an orange V-neck cashmere sweater. Both dressed in light pink with white, an older boy escorted a younger girl smiling shyly from underneath a pilgrimesque bonnet.