She struts into the Ivy with leg to spare and a long ponytail swinging behind her. She's working a super short, silver polka-dot dress, which she designed herself, and some seriously gooey lip gloss.
She's got a make-up artist in tow, along with two publicists and a bodyguard who's not afraid to stand down a local crazy roller dancer.
Is it Paris? Miley? Ivanka?
No, it's Kira Plastinina, a 16-year-old Russian fashion designer, and if everything goes as planned, she's going to be the next It girl.
'When I was really little, people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up,' she says, ordering a plate of spaghetti and meatballs.
'First I said a princess, then I said a fashion designer. I'm not grown up, but I am a fashion designer!'
Unlike the sorority of It girls before her who seemed to pop into the spotlight fully formed, Plastinina is a phenomenon in progress.
She's just in from Russia, where in the last year she opened 40 stores bankrolled by her millionaire daddy. Six months ago, she had a fashion show with Paris Hilton in the front row.
She's generating buzz on Moscow red carpets. And she's already had three Women's Wear Daily stories, and Teen Vogue is calling her a 'teen tycoon' and 'the talk of the town in her homeland'.
Her first store in the United States opened in New York last month. Five more are on the way in Los Angeles.
In the US, the goal is 50 Kira Plastinina stores in the next three years, and eventually 250. New York Fashion Week is also in the designer's sights.
Part of the first, post-Communist generation, Plastinina - who speaks almost perfect English and attends an international school - represents a new fashion identity for Russia beyond flashy designer logos.
Her clothes, with an average US$48 (S$65) price point, are fast fashion moving from East to West, targeting teens who live their lives online, where image is reality more so even than in Hollywood, and cultural and international borders are non-existent.
When Plastinina staged her first fashion show in March last year, it looked like a Soviet-era parody with 1980s throwback T-shirts, short-shorts, outsized bows and winged models.
In October, she had Hilton in her front row - for a reported US$2 million fee.
By March, she was showing a full collection of sweet teen clothing in a slickly produced runway production that was documented in a MTV Russia special, A Day In The Life With Kira.
It followed the teen from her Moscow workroom, where she hands over her girlish drawings to a design team, to her school library, to the fields outside of town where she is filmed cantering on her pony. The brand reported US$20 million in sales in its first year.
Not that any of it holds water with the fashion folk.
'If there is any demand for her line,' sniffs Alyona Isayeva, fashion editor of Russian Harper's Bazaar, 'it's mostly in the far-flung provinces'.
The Kira machine begins with her father, Sergei Plastinin, one of Russia's largest dairy producers who has a net worth of more than US$500 million.
'Sergei really looks at Kira as a prodigy,' says Bob Higgins, the industry veteran from Wet Seal and Tommy Hilfiger who was hired earlier this year to be senior vice-president of retail development and operations.
Before she opened her first store in the US, Plastinina had a MySpace page and a website playing American music, alongside clips from fashion shows, videos and photos with Hilton.
Harrison and Shriftman, the go-to public relations company for chick events such as the Bridget Jones' Diary and Legally Blonde premieres, was hired to introduce Plastinina to the US, beginning with a pink-themed party in New York in January.
A Los Angeles production company, the Outfit, which has produced music videos for the Pussycat Dolls, was tapped to document the New York trip for the website.
Plastinina is moving to Los Angeles for the summer, where she will be hanging out on the beach in 'the Colony', as she calls it, and walking red carpets all over town, including her own.
She will make her Los Angeles debut on June 16 at another pink-themed party, where singer Chris Brown is slated to perform.
Recently, she was seen walking a trendy local street, known as the boulevard of paparazzi princesses.
Plastinina looked at home in front of the storefront with 'Kira Plastinina' written in loopy pink script across the front, just across the street from Kitson.
Inside, the space is similar to her stores in Russia, she said, with lots of hot pink, chandeliers and poufs to sit on.
She was wearing her own line, as she usually does, including a US$34 rhinestone-studded denim miniskirt and a cobalt-blue patent leather bag with tortoise handles that packed a lot of style for US$48.
And if she was still a little unsure of how to vamp for the camera, she will learn soon enough, with pal Audrina Patridge of The Hills to teach her. Plastinina contacted the reality show star to meet for dinner in Los Angeles and recruited her as an official brand ambassador.
'We wanted to be very strategic,' says Higgins, adding that the company has also leased space at the Fashion Show Mall in Las Vegas.
'We're a designer brand but also at a price where anyone can come in and shop. Our core girl is 20 to 21 years old, but that's aspirational, because everyone kind of wants to be 21.'
Plastinina, who turned 16 on Sunday, still carries herself like a girl, not a woman. She would rather talk friendship bracelets ('One of my friends has the same birthday as mine on the same hour!') and pet miniature pigs ('I want one for my birthday') than designer clothes and marketing strategy.
Her drawings resemble high-school doodles more than professional fashion sketches. Still, she insists every piece in her collection is based on one of her ideas.
Less sportswear and more European-influenced streetwear, the line features lots of coloured denim jackets, short sequined jumpers and pants tapered at the ankles so they can be worn long or scrunched up to the knee with heels.
'You know how you are supposed to make a wedding dress for the end of a show? Well, I made a white coat,' she says, standing up from the lunch table to demonstrate how the coat fell to the floor.
'It was quilted all over, and it had a print that said, 'I believe in love'.'
She is entering a tough US retail environment. In April, teen retailers reported an 8 per cent drop in sales, the worst in 17 years. But lower-priced stores are expected to continue to do well.
The company has a distribution centre in Compton near downtown Los Angeles, so there will be new deliveries every four to six weeks, and it has partnered with Dylan's Candy Bar - the sweets boutique run by Ralph Lauren's daughter - on candy corners for every store.
'There is a market opportunity,' says DeeDee Gordon, co-president and co-founder of the teen trend forecasting firm Look-Look Inc.
'Especially in this economy. Young people do trade up and trade down. We've seen it with the popularity of Steve & Barry's and H&M.
'This generation has an entrepreneurial mindset. If they see someone in their own age group and believe what they see, they will support it.'
One day, Plastinina hopes to attend fashion school in London or New York, but this summer, she'll be working in Los Angeles.
Well within reach of the paparazzi lens.
Los Angeles Times
This article was first published in Urban, The Straits Times on Jun 5, 2008.