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Fashion’s Feline Obsession

When it comes to current couture, cats are all the rage

By: Noa Nichol

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Illustration by Taryn Gee

Leopard print. Kitten heels. Cat walks. Felines have always figured in fashion and, now more than ever, the trendsetters across the world are taking cues from their chic animal companions.

“I never thought I would like cats,” Chanel creative director Karl Lagerfeld told Harper’s Bazaar about his own Choupette—
a stunning white Birman gifted to him by French model Baptiste Giabiconi. “She’s really a stunning beauty. Her eyes are blue, blue, blue, blue, blue. And also her movement is so beautiful.”

Now properly in love (to the point that he says he would marry her, if he could), Lagerfeld admits to spoiling Choupette rotten, providing her with two maids, a driver, a twice-daily beauty regimen and dinner served on the table rather than the floor, in designer Maison Goyard dishes, to boot.

“She is the center of the world. If you saw her, you would understand,” he said in a March 2015 interview with NYMag. “She is kind of Greta Garbo. There is something unforgettable about her, the way she moves, the way she plays. She’s an inspiration for elegance. For attitude.”

It’s a similar obesession for designer Jason Wu, who says his past collaboration with retail giant Target would not have happened had it not been for inspiration derived from his “babies,” Jinxy and Peaches, who actually appeared in advertisements for the collection.

“My cats are really sassy and sophisticated,” said Wu in an interview with People magazine. “But, most importantly, they are picky.”

Grace Coddington’s affection for felines is well known—and very well documented. Not only is an entire chapter of the American Vogue staffer’s memoir dedicated to cats, her whimsical sketches—starring her own purring pets, Bart and Pumpkin—have been published in the magazine (not to mention in their very own book, The Catwalk Cats) numerous times.

“Do I dream predominantly about fashion? No. I dream much more about cats,” Coddington once admitted. “In New York, I’m cat central; absolutely everyone calls me for advice. They call me if they need to find a vet or discuss their cat’s symptoms or get the telephone number of my cat psychic. She’s brilliant by the way.”

We reached out to three equally chic cat lovers—The Lake and Stars lingerie and Radar mood rings maker Maayan Zilberman, Italian contemporary fashion designer Vivetta Ponti, and London-based senior style writer and editor Jennifer Trak—to get their take on why finicky felines are just so darn fashionable.

Jennifer Trak  Style writer & editor, formerly for brands like Harrods & Selfridges  London, England

Q: Why are you a cat lover?
A: I have always loved cats, even pre-Internet! They suit my personality; I’m a real homebody who loves to lie around watching Netflix. A cat just complements that lifestyle, you know?

Q: Who is your (current) cat?
A: My cat is Munch, adopted from the RSPCA a year-and-a-half ago. He’s a pure black cat and super sleek. Put him on a white pillow and it’s instant monochrome; you can’t get any chicer than black and white.

Q: Why do you think fashion is so obsessed with cats (not dogs) these days?
A: Like pineapples and flamingos, they have a fun, kitschy, pop-art quality to them that somehow makes it OK for grown women to wear them out in public. Cats are cooler than dogs because they can manage to be both super-cute and sophisticated at the same time. It’s that innate aloofness that makes them such a natural muse for fashion. Oh and their little faces undeniably make a great pattern (and look fantastic on cushion covers).

Q: How do cats inspire style? 
A: There is something about a love for cats that approaches fandom. When this obsession meets a creative mind that works in art/design/fashion, it’s not surprising when it somehow manages to influence their work.

Q: Is this trend going anywhere soon? Will cats continue to inspire our clothes?
A: Trends always come and go but, unless cats stop being so darn cute, I don’t see this massive kitty love going away. But, maybe Miuccia Prada will suddenly acquire a pet hedgehog who will then become the face of Lancôme.

Maayan Zilberman  Founder, co-president of The Lake & Stars  New York, New York

Q: Aesthetically speaking, why do you love cats?
A: Even the least beautiful cat is still beautiful.

Q: What makes cats—& cat people—so stylish?
A: I’ve never heard of anyone aspiring to look like a dog. I’d say cat people veer toward a feminine, polished sensibility that can be at once demure, decadent, and offbeat. I can’t speak for the fashion choices of dog people. Cats have incredible instinct; they always land on all fours. Aside from being worshipped in previous eras, cats are the subject of many designers because they are cute, chic, mysterious, and impossible to tame. Speaking as a metaphor for the jeune fille, the quintessential fashion muse, I’d say we use cats to lure the pretty girls to our yards.

Q: Have cats or a cat ever inspired your personal style?
A: I used to have a black-and-white cat with green eyes. We used to dress the same. My new friend Tamago is still evolving as a muse… she’ll appear in a collection one of these days.

Vivetta Ponti  Fashion designer  Milan, Italy

Q: Tell us about your cats
A: I have five cats. Four are oriental Siamese and one is a ginger European who I fed from a baby. Their names are Oliver, Oscar, Gigi, Soraya, and Iulli. I once found two newborn kittens and kept them alive by feeding them every two hours. Now they are healthy and happy cats, and believe humans are the same race.

Q: Why do you love cats?
A: I love all animals, but I’m crazy for felines; cats are the only animal that can live comfortably in a small house or apartment.

Q: How do your cats inspire you?
A: My past collections were always cat inspired. My first collection even included a cat [inspired] coat.

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