The Rise Of The Fashion Cat Lady

So hot right meow

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'Cat hair is lonely people glitter,’ is a slogan I once saw on a T-shirt. Funny, right? We all know the crazy cat lady stereotype to which it’s referring. But hang on. I have animal hairs on my clothes, but what they are clinging to is far more likely to be a Bella Freud Intarsia jumper than an ‘I Heart Kitties’ knit. Far from being a strange cat obsessive, I’m actually a member of the fashion world’s newest club – and once you’re in, it’s anything but lonely.

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There is an unofficial stealth movement that is infiltrating your Instagram feed and ultimately your subconscious. We might lead glamorous lives in the fashion and beauty industry, or maybe we’re just famous – Taylor Swift is a founding member – but we are currently succeeding in swapping the Cat Lady prefix from ‘crazy’ to ‘cool’. Members of the gang include Lena Dunham, who posts regularly about her need for a Cornish Rex, and posthumously Kurt Cobain, whose picture I have saved in my favourites album: black and white, with kitten, taken by Courtney Love. What could be cooler?

It began with Choupette Lagerfeld (cat of Karl), a four-year-old long-haired Siamese who started out as an Instagram celebrity (@choupettesdiary) and is now, along with Truman, the black and white kitten from the Miu Miu campaigns, a bona fide fashion muse, appearing across entire high-fashion collections. The fact that Chanel has its own feline mascot couldn’t help but be an, ahem, catalyst in the rise and rise of the Fashion Cat Lady.

Thrillingly, Choupette follows me on Twitter. And, since I follow back, I am one of the first to know that, despite speculation, Choupette and Cara Delevingne’s new dog are not romantically linked. My Cool Cat Lady credentials go further than that. I also have a subscription to Puss Puss magazine, the first glossy publication dedicated to all things feline (the current issue features Pam Hogg and her Sphynx cats, and an interview with the icon that is Garfield). It’s a magazine about interesting people who also happen to share a passion for cats. Launched in autumn 2014, it has since featured artist and activist Ai Weiwei, shoe designer Charlotte Olympia and rapper Tyler, The Creator among many others, as well as shoots by the best up-and-coming and established photographers. It is sold in the world’s coolest stores, such as Colette in Paris, Soho House Berlin and Daikanyama Tsutaya in Tokyo, and in more than 100 outlets in the US.

In fact, Editor Maria Joudina-Robinson asked me to contribute, but she wanted me to be photographed in my underpants for some reason, so I politely declined. She says, ‘I love magazines and I love cats, so I decided to put the two together and create a beautiful publication that people will want to keep and collect. Cats are naturally elegant and stylish – there had to be a magazine mixing them with fashion, art, culture, music and the fascinating people who adore them all in equal measure.’

Alongside my official role as ELLE’s Beauty Director, my boss has been known to refer to me as our ‘Pussy Correspondent’. I am responsible for all the four-legged content on elleuk.com (Star Wars, but with cats; a day in the life of the ELLE office, but with cats… you get the idea). I am unashamedly obsessed with my three Cornish Rexes, Coco, Columbo and Woody, but whereas I used to keep quiet about my enthusiasm while jetting to shoots around the world, high-profile parties and VIP launches, thanks to my fellow fashion felineophiles I am now out and proud.

So yes, the fashion world is finally accepting that cats are cool, but the women – and let’s face it, it is mostly women – who love them are even cooler. My hairdresser is one. I fly to New York for her blow-dries (Stephanie Stanko at Serge Normant at John Frieda – nobody does it better). She is so cool that she has the potential to make or break my day depending on how well I feel I’ve entertained her.

She is beautiful, effortlessly stylish, with an amazing boho fringe and many tattoos, and 11 rescue cats milling around her Bushwick (Brooklyn) home. (She tells me these cats have a way of finding her, rather than the other way round.) We spend our time comparing photos and anecdotes, and I leave feeling satisfied that Stephanie has multiple cats. Stephanie is cool, therefore I am cool. There was a time when admitting you had 11 cats conjured unfavourable assumptions about the state or smell of your home and love life. Now, as the (happily married) Stephanie proves, quite the opposite is true.

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Then there’s Lisa Eldridge, the global make-up artist and The New York Times best-selling author with half a million Instagram followers – and four cats. One of whom has her own social media account, naturally (@TheBettyKitten). Lisa says, ‘Betty is a diva. The cats are such a creative outlet for me; Betty is the ultimate make-up artist cat. She has all these amazing colours in her that are really related to skin. She’s a minky grey-like shadow, with peachy and pink tones of primers. Sometimes when I’m creating a look I say to my assistant, “I just want a Bettyish colour.”’

I wonder if there is something about fashion and beauty people that draws us to cats. They’re restrained, kind of like Tom Ford, who shuns social media. Aloof, much like Rei Kawakubo from Comme des Garçons who specialises in anti-fashion, and independent, like a post-Dior Raf Simons. Lisa agrees: ‘[Cats] are cool because they tell you to f*** off but then they love you too. They’re not crowd-pleasers, they’re just here to be amazing. That’s such a cool attitude for anyone to have, not just a cat.’

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Or maybe it’s just that we all live online these days and, as everyone knows, cats + internet = success. It seems ‘social petworkers’ are taking over, with the British public sharing twice as many feline pictures and videos online than selfies*. You know @SamHasEyebrows, right? And @PrincessMonsterTruck, @iamlilbub and, of course, @realgrumpycat? You don’t? They are some of the cat celebrities who’ve clawed (I apologise) their way up the social ladder among some 350,000 pet accounts.

My favourite though – and one I aspire to feature in – is @girlsandtheircats. It comprises photographs of hipster New York girls – vintage dresses, directional fringes, pot-plant strewn apartments and all – and the most essential accessory there is: a cat.

You don’t even need to own an actual cat to qualify. Miu Miu helped kick-start the movement with its love of a retro cat print, not least this SS16 where it is prolific. I want it all. Paul & Joe loves cat motifs so much it makes cat-shaped lipstick bullets. And Stella McCartney’s pre-fall 2016 collection is all based on cats (with a couple starring in the look book, naturally).

In my own wardrobe is a pair of cute velvet cat slippers from Marc by Marc Jacobs that make frequent appearances in the ELLE street style galleries, and make me smile every time I look down at them. You probably will have seen them somewhere online, since strangers surreptitiously photograph them as they walk past. I see you, strangers. Then there are my Charlotte Olympia Kitty Flats that I know even non-cat lovers covet, and a furry clutch with a ‘tail’ zip-pull. Oh, and various framed artworks. There is even a cat bust hanging on my toilet door, but that’s about it. Aside from the egg cups.

Another thing that unites us fashion cat ladies is unpredictable hours, high-pressure jobs and tight deadlines. And you know just the thing to alleviate some of that stress? Stroking a cat. Cat therapy, or pet-assisted therapy, is a widely believed to help lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart attack, even improve the lives of autistic children. The action of stroking a cat is thought to release oxytocin in the brain, also known as ‘the love hormone’, more traditionally associated with nurturing your offspring. Your fabulous life getting just a bit too much for you? Give your cat a rub. I credit my cats with helping me through all sorts of situations: sporadic insomnia, illness, dental work (via distracting thoughts, not literally) and general life enhancement. But cats are self-sufficient, too. I can travel across all four Fashion Week cities with no more planning than a key left with the neighbour and a small set of instructions for feeding. I’ve only once had to come home early from a press trip because my cat needed me, but it was with Chanel – naturally, they were very understanding.

So yes, I’m a cat lady. Proud, fashionable, sometimes cool, a bit creative. With some cat hair attached. 

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