New Jersey Kids Fashion Week teaches youth the fashion industry

EAST ORANGE, NJ — East Orange’s own fashion triumvirate of Josie Payoute, Martine Pierre and Jessica Smith were at it again Sept. 2 and 3, showcasing local talent and small businesses at their “Press Play” event and the New Jersey Kids Fashion Week runway show at the Montclair Women’s Club in Montclair.

Payoute is a professional fashion coordinator; Pierre is the owner and founder of Her Faith Event Planning & Lifestyle company and Smith owns the new Gallery 15 studio in the old Chronicle building on South Essex Avenue in Orange.

“We have a non-profit organization, New Jersey Kids Fashion Week, where we take on events, in order to help kids in the community,” Smith said Friday, Sept. 2, at the New Jersey Kids Fashion Week “Press Play” event for media, parents, child models and fashion designers of all ages. “This is the season. September will be the season for Fashion Week events, so our event will start today and tomorrow with a fashion show in Montclair. They’re on their way. We have a lot of designers that are children designers. … These young ladies have started when they’re very young and fashion is something that catches their attention, so we want to take it on as a positive aspect and let them continue on.”

Pierre said the real question for anyone asking why there should be a Fashion Week for children is, “Why not have a Fashion Week for children?”

“It may just need to be that they see that they can model and be entertainers, but they need to able to be well-trained in that field, in order to see what is ahead of them, so they can take on advantageous opportunities,” said Smith on Friday, Sept. 2. “What we do here at Gallery 15 is we have a lot of children’s workshops, where we teach children how to take on a fun activity but also gain an entrepreneurial understanding from that activity. So they can do fashion, creative writing, drama, African dance and DJ classes, where they learn how to mix on turntables. They have to learn how to own their own DJ company or own their own fashion business. Whatever the program is they choose, they have to have an entrepreneurial opportunity with that program.”

Pierre agreed that the idea behind New Jersey Kids Fashion Week is to expose children interested in pursuing careers in fashion and design to the reality of working in those industries. The fashion show was for children between 6 and 16 years old, and showcased the diversity of talent in and around East Orange and Essex County.

“We have so many children that are doing productive things in the community. … We have so many different bloggers and people doing different things for kids, so why not bring them all together and collaborate and network at a young age for the future,” said Pierre on Friday, Sept. 2. “A lot of programs don’t teach our children how to own businesses; they teach them how to work a 9 to 5 job. And that’s what we’ve come together to do — to teach them how to own their own businesses at an early age. Jessica actually has programs during the week for young ladies to learn how to sew and then we have Josie, who is a fashion coordinator, so during Fashion Week, she’s in New York and she’s behind the scenes and she brings everybody together, so we brought it here to New Jersey, and I’m an event planner. So we’ve brought all our intelligence together to bring New Jersey Kids Fashion Week.”

The New Jersey Kids Fashion Week event on Saturday, Sept. 3, was a chance for local child models and children’s apparel fashion designers to strut their stuff and show off their creations. It also gave several local entrepreneurs an opportunity to showcase their wares at the event.

“I enjoyed being a vendor here today,” said Daejah Cunningham, the owner of Miss Goody Goody Desserts, which specializes in creating custom desserts for any special events, on Saturday, Sept. 3. “I love supporting Martine, Josie and Jessica. They’re always having great uplifting events within the community to help build our community up, build our kids up, and I think this was a great event to help sponsor our kids and give back to our community.”

For East Orange Board of Education President Bergson Leneus and Recreation Department Director Osner Charles, the New Jersey Kids Fashion Week event was an opportunity to focus a spotlight on the city’s burgeoning young talent, on the runway and off it, too.

“This is an amazing event; Miss Josie Payoute, Martine Pierre and Miss Smith, they always put on a great show,” said Leneus. “It’s definitely for the kids and it’s always a pleasure. I think it’s good, anytime a child wants to do anything that’s extracurricular. They stay out of trouble. Fashion is amazing, especially in East Orange, where we are tied to the arts, we’re tied to culture, we’re tied to fashion and we’re tied to music. It’s always good to see it promoted through the children.”

Charles agreed with Leneus, adding that he was at the Montclair Women’s Club to see Josie, Martine, and Jessica give aspiring fashion designers and models an outlet to achieve their dreams, as well as a practical application at their New Jersey Kids Fashion Week event.

“Fashion is a mode and a means of self-expression, so we never want to deny our children that. However it is that they can express themselves in a positive fashion, we’re all in support of that,” Charles said Saturday, Sept. 3. “And as Bergson said, in the city of East Orange, we are a cultural district. We are very diverse, as far as our population and as far as the arts. So definitely, any way that we can support their artistic expression, we support that 100 percent.”