Image: Mother-daughter shoot
A mother-daughter duo in Antwerp, Belgium. Lucky winners will receive an all-expense paid, three-day trip to Paris and then participate in the company's fashion show. After the show, contestants will be whisked off for another three-day, all-expense paid trip to an exotic location in the world to participate in the company's photo shoot for their catalogue.
updated 4/2/2009 12:49:41 PM ET 2009-04-02T16:49:41

Whoever thought jetting off on a family vacation could turn turn into a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity? That's what one lucky mother-daughter duo experienced recently as they auditioned to be potential models for a major sportswear outfitter while visiting the city of Antwerp, in Belgium.

Belgium, a country based on compromise and linguistic traditions yet bonded together by their cultural significance: beer, chocolates and of course, waffles. The country also plays host to several sightseeing attractions like for children the Antwerp Zoo, which was our selected destination. However Antwerp is also well known as the clothing design capital of Europe. Allowing a 15-minute shopping spree deemed to be acceptable despite the present day economy.

After a short browse among the stores, my 8-year-old daughter and I stumbled across the French hip outfitter, Comptoir des Cotonniers, a brand more well-known and adored by well heeled French mothers and their daughters. It is not a brand name many folks back in the United States have heard about much less could we pronounce the name, correctly. ( But then, I could hardly pronounce the "Esprit" back in their earlier days of their incarnation.)

"Do you and your daughter like our clothes?" asked Isabelle Looyens, the recently appointed assistant manager at Comptoir des Cotonniers on Schuttershofstraat, 41 who used to work for several well-known fashion designers although she freely admits she likes the clothes at her present store much better. "Would you like to come back later today and participate in our photo audition? It could be a once-in-a-lifetime story to tell your family back home in the States," she told us.

What would be a once-in-a-lifetime story worth talking about is what we would receive if we were selected candidates for the company: A mother-daughter fashion walk down the runway together in a real Paris fashion show. Included in the show would be what all the fashion models receive back home: full makeup, hair, fittings, and we would even receive all the clothes we modeled for the show — all for free.

In addition the mother-daughter duo would also be provided with an all-expense paid trip to Paris including airfare, three nights hotel accommodation, a generous spending allowance, a year's supply of gift shopping certificates to the store, and of course photos of the mother-daughter team would appear worldwide on Web sites, in magazines, and in their stores.

And, the fun does not stop here. The day after the Paris fashion show, the mother and daughter candidates will travel on all-expense paid three-day trip to the photo shooting location for the company's catalogue (previous idyllic locations have been Greece, Paris, South Africa and Ibiza) — all for free!

The recession has made moms kick up their heels and save on every penny. What better way to have fun and learn a bit of well, French — again, all for free! "We will be back for sure!" I enthusiastically stated to the assistant manager.

Later that day, the store was filled with potential mother and daughter contestants who sipped on glasses of champagne and nibbled on chocolate and cookies. Sasha Silberbuch, a 23-year-old, Brooklyn-born, Antwerp-raised candidate was accompanied by her Belgian-born mother, Florence Silberbuch. "Sometimes it's really hard to tell the difference between the mother and daughter combos. Everyone looks fabulous yet we are all having fun together," the elder Silberbuch stated.

Her daughter added: "It is a great concept that the company uses real people and they bring together both the younger and older generations."

No hiding behind fitting room curtains, here. "They're wearable items that both a mother and daughter can wear and even share together," said Martine Delvalle, area manager for Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg, who has been with the company for a few years. "The clothes are effortless, genuine and instantly recognizable."

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At times it is hard to tell the difference between who is the mother and who is the daughter. Regardless everyone in the store is having fun, talking and admiring the mother-daughter ensembles. Its what shopping should be all about, right?

Disappointed you can't join in on the fun? No worries. Recently Comptoir des Cotonniers opened their first and only store location in the United States, located in New York City (155 Spring Street).

The company will be holding mother-daughter auditions on Sunday, April 5 from 2 p.m.-7 p.m.

What if you can't make the big photo opportunity? Submission by e-mail is acceptable. Selection of winning candidates will be notified at the end of April, 2009.

Bon chance, as they say in Belgium!


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