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Fashion’s New Muse: The Cat

There’s a new lap pet in vogue, and no, it does not wear tiny sweaters

When last year an exotic-looking Siamese named Choupette (shown, left) began parading around Paris unabashedly in a real fur coat, designer companion Karl Lagerfeld at her heels, the fashion world purred, and loudly: Who, they wanted to know, was the old guy with the hot pussy? With lake-blue eyes and high maintenance hair, the French-born Choupette, who eats from Goyard dishes placed on the table, never the floor, was a natural-born star, swiftly booking spreads in Harper’s Bazaar and V Magazine, lunching with frenemy Blake Lively, and commanding nearly 22,000 followers on Twitter (@ChoupettesDiary). Two French maids are tasked with her twice-daily brushing. Choupette’s favorite plaything is an extra-large shopping bag from Colette.

Step aside, little lapdog: Le chat is the new high-fashion muse.

It’s a wonder it took so long. Cats, after all, are built for fashion: They’re picky eaters, obsessive groomers, and they look amazing in hats. They’re standoffish and snotty, until they want something from you. They love a good shoebox, though perhaps not for the shoes. Still, for years they’ve played the underdog to ankle-biters whose appeal was always a bit suspect (we’re talking about a species that will, on occasion, eat one another’s poo). But as overbred teacups like Tinkerbell Hilton came and went on reality TV and in the oversized totes of the famously in-and-out-of-rehab, cats were quietly building an underground empire, attaching themselves to Hollywood and fashion industry heavies with decidedly longer shelf lives, like Lea Michele,Abigail Breslin, Katy Perry, Evan Rachel Wood and Taylor Swift, whose Scottish Fold Meredith (shown, right) has ranked above Kate Middleton and superhero movies on an industry list of the best things happening in pop culture. Likewise, Mercy Kardashian, Kim’s new Persian, has rocked the tabs with her perfect “Who, me?” pout (shown, bottom right) and paparazzi-tailed outings to Miami groomers. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have Kanye West for a kitty-daddy.

However, the well-bred puss doesn’t necessarily have the advantage, which has been a boon for the entire species. The fashion world is remarkably democratic in its embrace of all cats, regardless of bloodline or station in life. While Choupette may have paved the way for the kittens working Le Marais, the camera loves an understated tabby, like 90210 starlet AnnaLynne McCord’s Mouse and Kreayshawn’s Choppa, just as much. Last year, indie label United Bamboo hawked a $50 calendar featuring photos of cats—professional and “real”—posing in feline-sized versions of its Fall and Resort 2011 sequin dresses and blazers, while a New York City fashion show in February starred Matilda, the working cat from the Algonquin hotel. In recent seasons, cat prints have decorated dresses, scarves, sweaters and totes by designers both haute and affordable, including Tsumori Chisato, Jeffrey Campbell, and Jason Wufor Target, whose muse is a black French-cartoon feline named Milu.

Although cats aren’t the exclusive workhorses, so to speak, in the talent pool—Eva Longoria is so devoted to rescue cats she signed on to be the face of Sheba cat food, and Cee Lo Green shills for Meow Mix—they’ve proven they’re more than worth their weight in catnip. In August, Internet cat videos inspired an entire festival at Minnesota’s tony Walker Art Center, which oversold expectation by tens of thousands and included film noir entries subtitled in French. Meanwhile, Silicon Valley’s Cheezburger network, which thrives on cats hamming it up for the camera, raised about $30 million in venture funding last year alone. The cat may be trendy, but she’s also a pretty solid investment piece. Take that, bag-sized bitches. 

Photos (top to bottom): Courtesy of Choupette/Twitter; Courtesy of Taylor Swift/Twiiter; Courtesy of Kim Kardashian/Twitter