The camel in action on set, as captured by Sarah McAnulty. (Twitter/@SarahMackAttack)

Many strange things happen on the streets of Philadelphia, but a camel chomping on sandwich bread is not usually one of them.

It appeared to be a dromedary, with a single hump, according to photos and videos posted online. It also appeared quite content to chillax next to the sidewalk, nibbling at a rack loaded with hoagie rolls while an assortment of fashion bags draped off one side of its saddle.

The scene at 2nd and Fairmount was strange enough to spark interest across nearly every social media platform, garnering reactions that ranged from confusion to delight. 

“Yes, I’m completely sober,” one person avowed next to a pic of the camel on Facebook.  

“Philadelphia is a perfect city,” noted a pleased resident on Twitter.

“It’s not even hump day,” someone posted on Instagram, adding the very necessary comment to the mix.

Why the large mammal was hoofing it around the Northern Liberties’ commercial corridor was less clear. An early afternoon phone call to Bourbon & Branch, the bar in front of which the camel was snacking, resulted in a cryptic “I’m not at liberty to say,” followed quickly by a click.

Online commenters began to suss it out, picking up on the fact that several of the humans surrounding the camel were carrying cameras and video equipment, while other, smaller humans (kids) were arrayed next to the beast in matching outfits.

A strange and incongruous setting mixed with carefully considered clothing? Aha. Must be a fashion shoot.

With some hints from people who claimed to be in the know, online consensus quickly developed that the camel-ific event was indeed a commercial being filmed. Rumors pegged the company behind it all as a NYC-based kids apparel brand. 

“It was for a commercial for a children’s clothing company out of Brooklyn,” one local business owner told Cassidy Martin, new executive director of the Northern Liberties Business Improvement District, adding, “It was sanctioned by the Philly Film Office in advance.”

The Greater Philadelphia Film Office confirmed the camel was there for a “commercial still photo shoot.” And as is usual for any large-scale shoot GPFO helps organize on the city grid, there were several police-issued temporary-no-parking signs posted around the area. 

The Philadelphia Police Department threatened to tilt the investigation in a different direction — “It was [a] Nike commercial,” suggested Public Affairs Officer Miguel Torres — but the fashion brand narrative continued strong.

One commenter posting in a private FB group even named what they claimed was the company behind the stunt: Petit Clair

A review of the brand’s online presence indicates it’s certainly a potential match. “We take your favorite looks and design sophisticated children’s wear for the modern child, and the discerning dresser,” reads welcoming copy on the website. “The perfect balance of classic and trendy.”

Are camels trendy? Apparently so. 

The last time one made a splash in Philly was 2018, it was spotted alongside a highway in the middle of a snowstorm. (Turned out to be headed for a Jewish Federation event.) The time before that was in 2017, when Saudia Shuler went all out for her son’s prom party, turning a slice of North Philadelphia into a Dubai-themed party, live camel included.

Petit Clair, which did not immediately return a request for comment, has a robust ecommerce site and lists a handful of pop-up store locations around NYC and its wealthier suburbs. A business was incorporated under the name in 2016 in Lakewood, N.J., and in 2020 in Brooklyn.

Past photo shoots for the boutique childrenswear brand show kids in a variety of settings, from ice skating rinks to beach volleyball courts, and vintage school buses to garment factories. Very rarely do animals make cameos in the pics, although a horse does show up.

So no real precedent for the crew to have brought their ungulate star to disrupt a Monday afternoon in Philly. But then again, no reason not to.

Updated July 18