New York - If, like Vahida Hodzic, you're a self-respecting up-to-the-minute city kid, there's one fashion accessory you simply can't be without, dahling.
Your bubble necklace.
According to Vahida, who is in fourth grade at Public School 111 here, it's all the rage. "Most of my friends have them," she says.
"Watch," she adds, as she slips around her neck a miniature perfume bottle attached to a black cord. Intently uncorking the bottle, she dips the top's attached wand back into the bottle's sudsy liquid, and, bringing it to her lips, blows a stream of tiny soapy spheres.
"See. It's fun," she says. "Everyone just loves to blow bubbles."
It seems everyone does.
Over the last couple of months, city toy stores have seen a steady lathering of interest in this new kiddie-jewel. "I got 200 pieces on the shelf," says 34th St. Kiddie City manager, Mark Jordan, explaining that his plastic versions go for $1.49 a pop. "I'm selling 100 a week."
More upmarket stores have also seen a huge demand. Bloomingdale's sold out over the holidays, says sales assistant Carmen Taveras.
In the past month, Children of Paradise on Bleecker St. sold 100 bubble bottles a day, according to owner Igal. Charging between $3 and $5, he carried five different designs, from hearts to lips to colored bottles.
At SoHo's Penny Whistle Toys, the bubble necklaces are also flying off the shelves. "It's bubbles in general," says Penny Whistle manager, Matine Kieffer, trying to explain the craze. "People love them."
But, adds Ms. Kieffer, there's a big difference between this fad and others like the slap-bracelet or the klacker fads that came and went last summer.
"This has been a steady thing. It's not just for one age group," she notes.
It was adults who started the fad in the first place, claims Providence, R.I., costume jeweler Luca Razza.
Mr. Razza, who popularized the best-selling Mood Ring over a decade ago, takes credit for inventing the bubble pendant, as he calls it.
Mr. Razza was the first to market the product last summer. Starting with $20 Milan-made bottles in Lord & Taylor and Macy's here, the Emporium and Nordstrom's out West, he found the bubbler really took off in California, particularly among celebrities.
Madonna and Christie Brinkley were seen using the bubbler. Anti-smoking advocate Larry Hagman used his to blow bubbles at anyone who dared light up in his presence. Mr. Razza was shipping 15,000 bottles a day to meet the demand.
Millions of cheap imitations, geared to the kiddie-market, have since arrived in stores. Even Barbie has jumped onto the bubblewagon.
And Mr. Razza is trying to keep the bubble fad forever blowing with a new line of jeweled bottles and another featuring Disney characters.