I don’t usually do cats. I love ’em and am happy to be a cat mom to Isabel and Lola. But, Bark and Swagger is really a dog fashion and more site. But, I happily made an exception for the creative and cause-worthy cat fashion show last weekend, where a bevy of fabulous felines descended upon the famed NYC Algonquin Hotel, home to the even more famous house cat, Mathilda. For those who don’t know the story, in the late 1930s, a disheveled feline wandered into the hotel searching for food and shelter. Quintessential host and owner, Frank Case, welcomed the furry traveler into The Algonquin and a tradition was born. There have been many Mathilda’s over the years, all popular with guests. The current Mathilda is no exception, and has full run of the house (except the dining room and kitchen), and watches over the comings and goings of hotel guests. The celebrity cat receives mail weekly from friends around the world and has been the subject of many stories. When her collar was stolen, the “Algonquin Cat-Burglary” was the talk of the town!
So, how could a pet fashion journalist worth her salt not cover a hot story like a cat fashion show on such hallowed ground? Well, I couldn’t come up with a reason, so off I went to meet the feline fashionistas! The show was designed and costumes created by the amazing Ada Nieves, also co-founder/creative director of the New York Pet Fashion Show. The theme this year was Broadway; the beneficiary was the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC Animals, a wonderful organization that, under its umbrella, has over 150 shelters and rescue groups saving many lives.
Entering the Algonquin is like stepping back in time. The old world charm of the lobby cafe greets you, but when I stepped into the second floor gallery, I was met with a sea of cat lovers! The fashion show was more like a fashion exhibit, with stations created to represent each popular Broadway show, and its’ cat model(s) lounging on set.
The first kitty I visited was Tara, a bona fide hero. This fierce feline is a YouTube sensation, having risked her life to protect her young, human sibling from an attacking dog. Like most real heroes, Tara was cool as a cucumber, hanging out in her own private dressing room. Dad Roger Triantafilo, told me how she and his son, Jeremy, grew up together. Tara actually adopted Roger and his wife after following them home from a park when Jeremy was a baby. Talk about fate. They started sleeping together and became close. Jeremy is mildly autistic, so Tara may feel even more protective of him; animals know these things. Roger said she’s always watched over Jeremy, but never did anything as dangerous to herself as lunging at and body slamming a much larger dog, in the midst of an attack. The surveillance video from Roger’s home is pretty impressive; Tara was fearless. At the show, she was portraying Pippin, a young prince longing for passion and adventure. It was a natural role for Tara! She wore a cape with a colorful, diamond-shaped pattern, demonstrating her true superhero kitty status. I got a picture of Tara, au natural in her dressing room, prior to donning her costume.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s was represented by Broadway pro and therapy cat, Vito, who’s appeared in television commercials, on tv shows 30 Rock and Colbert Nation, and as the kitty lead in the real Breakfast at Tiffany’s on Broadway. Nonplused, like most stars by all the attention, Vito was lounging on a pillow wearing a snazzy gold satin tux, with a dappy feathered hat.
Rock of Ages‘ feline stars and real life professional models, Tigger and Cody, are brothers who were there with mom, Karen Frewert. They played Drew and Sherrie, lovers in the show, and were dressed in a fabu matching denim harness and dress. Both pieces featured a hand-painted trim of fire, representing their hot superstar status, and studded detailing, just to emphasize you don’t mess with these tabbys. The vest included a faux fur collar and the dress featured a hand painted fish skeleton that represented their “Bad to the Bone” love of music. Cute, Ada!
Milo, with mom Aimee Henkell, nailed the sorority girl Elle Woods look from Legally Blonde. Obviously a metrosexual kitty, Milo wore a pink shirt with a hand painted portrait of his Chihuahua sibling on the back, with a cute little cap. Milo was actually raised by this Chihuahua who nursed him as a kitten and, to this day, treats Milo like her baby.
Wicked was represented by the very cool-looking Zeus, portraying Elphaba, the green-skinned, wicked witch. BarkandSwagger met the real Elphaba actress, Christine Dwyer, at Broadway Barks recently. Zeus wore a green taffeta shirt and matching wicked hat. His dad, Miguel Rodriguez, is a dog fashion designer and is active in animal rights, creating events to raise funds for animals in need in the Hispanic community.
Who better to play Roxie Hart from Chicago than a self-possessed feline? Ferrara fit that bill to a t! The beautiful black and white girl, accompanied by a dressed to the nine’s mom, actress Malika Samuel, wore a sizzling red satin gown with a 1920’s sequin and fringe-inspired design. A matching sequined head piece added a splendid finish!
Sizzling seniors with cool names portrayed Christine’s angel of music and The Phantom in Phantom of the Opera. Q wore an 1800’s-inspired French ruffled, white satin shirt, and wings, indeed looking very angelic. R2D2 wore a cat cape with a French ruffled collar and cuffed shirt, looking very mysterious.
And Mathilda was represented by model, Daisy, a Sphinx beauty adorned in a dramatic black, white and red number, inspired by the young Mathilda’s love of words. With a crossword puzzle theme, words/phrases of inspiration by the young heroine like extraordinary, phenomenon and power of imagination are featured, as well as a quote that embodies the Mathilda character, “Sometimes you have to be a little bit naughty.”
Other shows represented included Hairspray, which featured Ada’s own stunning cat, Martini-Beethoven, wearing a blue and white school uniform inspired by the show; Mama Mia, featuring Lily in a short version of a white satin wedding dress and veil; and Heathers, featuring Lightning and the Bear. Lightening portrayed Kurt in the show, and wore a cashmere sweater from The Elegant Hare, a new business founded by Margaret Konecky, using repurposed cashmere to make pillows and sweaters for pets and their humans. The day of the show was Margaret’s first day in business. Good luck, Margaret! Your designs are soft and beautiful!
Just as I was about to leave, I met Leslie Martini, cat mom to Lila, who recently passed over the Rainbow Bridge. Lila was always a restless kitty in suburbia, longing for something more in life. Leslie’s daughter suggested that Lila really had a yearning to meet Mathilda, the Algonquin cat. So they crafted a soon to be published children’s book, that tells the story of Lila’s dream to escape to the big city and meet the larger-than-life cat. It’s about having dreams, Leslie explained to me, and everyone has dreams. And, what an apropos way to end my time at the cat fashion show, where dreams were on display and kitty love ruled the day!
Do you have a cat that likes to dress up? Tell me about it in the Comments.