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Feline Fashionistas

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Whether it’s a warm scarf to take the chill off a wintry weather day, or an elaborate costume for a black tie charity event, there’s no question that feline fashion is on the rise.

According to the National Retail Foundation, pet owners are expected to spend $70 million more on pet costumes in 2012 than they did in 2011.

Nowhere is the fashion trend more evident than in New York City, where the heart of all fashion beats strong. And, if the Big Apple is the royal court of fashion, Ada Nieves is the queen of cat couture.

“People dress their animals not only to make their pets look good, but to express their personality,” Nieves said. “One reason why people dress up their pets is to show off your personality. But the other side of pet fashion is that it’s often a necessity. For example, fashion can help hairless pets retain body heat and make pets feel more secure. No matter what the situation, fashion should always be functional.”

Whether you’re exploring feline fashion for form or function, there is an outfit or accessory available, and you’ll find tabbies wearing everything from taffeta to tiaras.

The pet fashion industry has been growing so quickly that there are resources committed just to this section of the industry. The Fashion Institute of Technology in New York now offers a specialized curriculum focused on Pet Product Design and Marketing. The tract includes classes in “Petwear Patternmaking” and “Pet Accessory Design.”

According to Lauren Darr, founder of the International Association of Pet Professionals and author of the 2014 Pet Fashion Almanac, cat fashion is here to stay.

Fashion Forward: From Japan to New York

Princess Prin and Prince Koutara are two cats who helped put “high fashion” on the map. Owned by Takako Iwasa, these fashion cats set the standard for Japanese cat fashion. Iwasa-San, as she is known online, tells her website visitors: “To dress a cat, let [the cat] know [dressing up] has changed [their lives] for only a moment. Take your photos, then remove the clothing immediately. Then give her a hug and say, ‘Thank you!’”

Iwasa’s bestselling book, “Fashion Cats” has helped increase the popularity of cat couture.

Most cat owners know that dressing up a feline can be a dangerous undertaking and not for a temperamental tabby. But for those looking for a bit of fun, with a tolerant cat in their home, they can have a nice photo session without stressing out their feline companions.

Au Natural Neckbands

The easiest way to dress up a cat is with a collar or other decorative neckwear. The top sellers are fashionable leather collars that are durable and long-lasting.

“When it comes to cats, fur is best,” Errin West of Cat Connection, a retail store in Dallas, said. “Leather collars offer an additional factor of durability for cats. We’re also seeing a big surge in hemp and natural collars. Quick release collars are still a concern so we don’t carry any collars that aren’t safety stretch or breakaway collars.”

Designer collars are just as popular, with pet owners seeking out innovative designs that reflect the individual nature of their cats. The necktie collar, which feature a cute way to dress up without clothes that constrict, are gaining in popularity.

Cat In a Hat

ToScarboroughFair’s ETSY shop has been featured on everything from People Magazine to Animal Planet, and it’s little wonder why. Her tiny hats for the fashion-forward feline are one of a kind and as creative as each cat.

Stocking up your store for your cat clientele can still be a challenge, but it’s certainly doable.

“We had many clients asking for sweaters this winter,” West said. “While attending SuperZoo, we went on a search for them and sure enough, located Catspia, which is now one of our favorite designers of cat sweaters.”

Even wigs are popular fashion accessories for cats. Thanks largely to the cat memes of the internet, celebrity cats continue to grow in popularity. Accessories such as bowties and scarves tend to ramp up the cute factor.

Feline finery has also been touted for years at the landmark Algonquin Hotel in New York City. Their feline resident Matilda, is well known among feline fanciers and she hosts an annual fashion show that has been in existence since 2006. The hotel has had a feline resident since the 1930s, beginning with the arrival of a stray cat, affectionately named Hamlet by actor John Barrymore, who was in resident at the hotel during that time.

Functional Fashion

Not sure if you are ready to commit to cat clothing? Stylish carriers and unique grooming styles may be more up your store’s alley.

Companies like Sturdi Products offer carrier with unique patters and designs that can express a person’s eye for fashion and color.

Inspiration

If you’re looking for inspiration, look no further than the annual New York Pet Fashion Show.

“The Pet Fashion Show is the pinnacle of what the pet lifestyle industry has to offer,” Nieves said.

Now in its 10th year, the show occurs each February and kicks off the Westminster Weekend and Fashion week.

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