Pretty Kitty! Cat Couture Fashion at the Algonquin

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Some things don’t go together: ammonia and bleach, medication and alcohol, toothpaste and orange juice…cats and fashion shows? Strike out that last one, because it apparently does work. Every year, the historic Algonquin Hotel in NYC hosts a cat fashion show, in honor of a special tradition.

The story goes that in 1932, the famed actor and hotel patron John Barrymore was standing in the lobby when a stray cat wandered in. The actor named the cat “Hamlet,” and ever since, the Algonquin has kept a resident cat. If the kitty is male, he is named Hamlet after the original, if female, she is named Matilda.

Along with their resident cat, the Algonquin also honors feline friends by hosting a Cat Fashion Show annually, which benefits charities for animal welfare. This year marked the event’s 10th anniversary. Attendees wore their best cat-themed fashion in order to see 10 pretty kitties prance down the runway in custom clothing.

All photos are by Lexie Moreland

All photos are by Lexie Moreland

The kitty clothing was entirely handmade by Ada Nieves in New York. Nieves is a pet fashion designer, stylist, and FIT graduate. Her animal costumes have been featured on shows such as “Late Show with David Letterman,” “Anderson Cooper 360,” and the Animal Planet. While Nieves was too busy to attend the show herself, she did speak to WWD about her inspiration, stating that she began to design pet clothing after adopting a Chihuahua who needed to be covered to survive the cold New York winter. She began designing doggy outfits that imitated the runway looks of famous New York designer, Oscar de la Renta. She said,

“I just thought, ‘Why not make it fun and make it fashionable?’”

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For this year’s Cat Fashion Show, Nieves designed outfits with the show’s theme of “Through the Decades” in mind, celebrating the hotel’s famous guests. She said, “The owners give me their cats’ measurements and then I make outfits that are inspired by the theme…I know all my models personally, and I do the casting myself. I’m always searching for new talent.” It’s unclear what “talent” includes for a cat model—after all, felines notoriously do what they want—but what is clear is the immense work Nieves puts into her creations. The elaborate costumes, including accessories, take her a year to complete.

As for the models, they apparently lounged backstage at individual stations, begrudgingly allowing their pictures to be taken before they were each dressed in a custom outfit. Nieves said,

“Cats are not like dogs; they’re very particular. But my experience, during the past four years, has shown me that most animals like being dressed up because of the attention that they get from it…Their temperament can vary though. You never know what side of the bed they’re going to wake up on. They don’t let you know until the moment.”

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The cats at the show, however; seemed to be apathetic to the chaos surrounding them, some of them even sleeping through it. One kitty, Aine, a blue lynx point Himalayan from North Salem, was making her debut as a cat model. She was dressed as Marilyn Monrow, wearing a pink satin bow dress accessorized with a blonde wig. Aodhan, a red Tabby Persian, had more experience than his female friend, having been on the runway before and even appearing on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.” For the show, he was dressed in a Yankees Jersey, imitating Joe DiMaggio.

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Tickets for the Cat Fashion Show were $50 each, and the event was completely sold out. Over all, the event raised over $10,000 that will be given to the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals. Those kitties must have been well behaved. I’m not sure I could convince mine to model anything more than her collar.

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I'm an avid reader and love writing more than anything. My favorite authors include Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, and J.K. Rowling. I love fashion, and though you'd never tell by looking at me, I'm a horror movie junkie. Painting is one of my talents, and my ultimate career goal is to be an author.

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