Peruse those popular pet parody magazines such as Dogue, Catmopolitan and Vanity Fur, and you'll find felines and canines in classy couture by such well-known designers as Yves Saint Bernard, Christian Laclaw, Purry Ellis, Giorgio Arfmani, Karl Dogerfeld, Hiss Claiborne and Ruff Lauren.
The outfits are really something to to bark about. Purr-fectly divine. But the local pet set's not the jet set. And since Arfmani's doghouse is in Italy and Laclaw cats around in Paris, how can they help us here? What we need is someone in Salt Lake City who can create attractive attire for fashionables with four feet.Maybe that local designer who's noted for her bridal and special occasion apparel could do the job - Nannette of New York. Now operating a shop called The Private Collection, her name would work. Nan-nette for the Purr-ivate Collection. See?
"Yes, I see what you have in mind," giggled Nannette Holmberg when we approached her with the idea."You're doing an article on pet parodies. . . and youthink it'd be fun to localize it. Maybe it'll open up a whole new career for me!"
So, Holmberg agreed to custom-make elegant ensembles for two four-footed fashion plates. Fur-thermore, she agreed to find them. Cover queen Kitty Brinkley apparently was not available - off somewhere with Doggy Joel. So, the Salt Lake designer did the next best thing and found the fuzzy faces of the '80s right in her own backyard.
The dog: Joshua - a poodle, who lives with her cousin Chris Smith. And, listen, this dog was obviously born and bred to parade down the runway. Right at home in front of the camera.
The cat: Kuhn Chen - a Maine Coon who resides with the Holmberg family. And we might as well be honest about it. This cat gets hiss-terical during fashion shoots. (She jumped right out of her dress, ran downstairs and hasn't forgiven us yet. As Eileen Ford says, not every girl's cut out to model.)
Anyway, after studying the models in Vanity Fur, the Salt Lake designer got busy with her own creations. She decided on a debonair black velvet smoking jacket with embroidered monogram and red ascot for Josh. For Kuhn, an elaborate red taffeta evening dress with black lace and seed pearl trim.
There were sketches, patterns and several fittings to make sure the clothes hung right - just like human haute couture. The designer's 12-year old daughter Erin thought it was great fun. So did Cousin Chris.
"It reminded Chris and me of when we were little and used to dress our cats in bonnets and doll clothes," recalled Holmberg. "Way back then without knowing it, I must have been preparing for this unusual turn in my career!"
Ilene Hochberg, the New Yorker who launched the pet parody craze, began preparing for her unusual career early in life, too.
"I always had pets," she told us during a phone interview. "Twelve dogs right now - they live with us at our country home in Pennsylvania - and Nubie, a Scottie, commutes to New York with me. I've always been absolutely wild about animals."
She's also wild about fashion. And that's what started it all. Hochberg had worked in visual display for several leading retail stores, including Macy's. The jobs took her to Europe, and because she couldn't return to her pets empty handed, she spent her free time hunting for cute doggie clothing and accessories. Friends were intrigued and soon were asking her to shop for their four-footed companions. Naturally, it didn't take the New Yorker long to hear opportunity scratching at the door.
Fashionable gear for pets wasn't available to any great degree on this side of the Atlantic. Pet owners clearly wanted the stuff. So, why not start a manufacturing company for canine couture?
Of course, the new company needed to be publicized. And one day when she was reading Women's Wear Daily, the idea struck - boom, right out of the blue! Dogwear Daily - a good-natured spoof based on John Fairchild's paper, the bible of the fashion industry.
Well, the clothes and accessories offered in DWD caught on more quickly than Spuds McKenzie. People absolutely loved them. But they loved the paper even more. Along with orders for clothes and such for canines, she was deluged with more subscription requests than a poor dog has fleas - over 2,000.
"I realized I was on to something," Hochberg said. "There really wasn't enough happening in the world of pet fashion to make DWD a daily publication or even do such things on a monthly basis. But one-shot parody publications, it seemed to me, just might be perfectly feasible. And when my husband Irwin and I got to thinking of the parody possibilities and the funny plays on names - Yves Saint Bernard instead of Yves Saint Laurent, for instance - we couldn't stop laughing. We just had to do it."
She began studying the magazine market and, as you might expect, Vogue caught her eye. "I saw Dogue as I looked at that title on the cover," she said. "I saw a dog all dressed up on the front instead of the gorgeous model. And I couldn't wait to get started with the photographs, ads and editorial copy."
Once the plan for Dogue was in place - the magazine looked just like the real thing, but dogs filled the pages instead of humans - she began hauling the page layouts around to prospective publishers. The response was an unbelieving stare. Then a nervous laugh. Then an emphatic bark: "Not interested!" Nobody was willing to take a chance on such an off-the-wall idea. Hochberg lost hope. And then it was Christmas and a little miracle happened.
At a dinner party she was seated next to a dapper gentleman. They got to talking, and with a hangdog face, she told him her sad story. Lo and behold, he turned out to be a prominent publisher who was willing to take a chance on a crazy scheme.
The response to publication of Dogue was overwhelming. It became a national best seller and made the Publishers Weekly list of best books of 1986. And, then, as you might expect, feline fanciers demanded equal time. So, along came Catmopolitan.
"It was interesting," said Hochberg. "I never heard a word from the editors at Vogue when we sent them a copy of Dogue with our compliments. But Helen Gurley Brown at Cosmopolitan (in Catmo she's called Havana Purrley Brown) was absolutely delighted. She thought it was great and wrote to us saying we had definitely captured the Cosmo attitude - right down to our beefcake centerfold of Burt - excuse me - Burmese Reynolds."
Even leading cosmetics and fashion advertisers who were parodied unmercifully in the publication loved it. Estee Lauder (referred to as Estee Longhair) wrote to Hochberg saying she adored the prominent placement of her ad. "Much better than in the real magazine."
Models such as Paulina Porzikova (in Catmo she's Pawlina Purrzikova) must have liked it, too. And show biz personalities such as Woody Allen (Woody Alleycat) Tom Cruise (Tomcat Cruise) and Lorenzo Lamas (Clawrenzo Lamas). And designers! Why, even the quiet, publicity shy Norma Kamali whose label is On My Own must have had a big laugh seeing her name in print as Norma Katmali for On Meow Own.
The reception Catmo received (there are now more than 725,000 copies in print) made the tail-thumping success of Dogue seem paw-ltry in comparison. So, Hochberg jumped in with all four feet once again - this time putting both felines and canines under one cover in Vanity Fur.
"It's hard to pick my favorite of the books," the author said. "But I do love this last one. We've put the best of everything into it; it's full of fashion and gossip and high society just like Vanity Fair."
Dominick Dunne who writes about the decadent jet set for Vanity Fair becomes Doberman Dunne taking a walk on the wild side (with a professional pet walker). There are articles on artists (Salvador Dogi, Andy Warhund, Pablo Pawcaso). There are pawtraits of Benji, Morris, many more. There's an article on the big fashion rivalry in Paris between Saint Bernard and Laclaw (the fur is flying). And there's an entire section on designers and their pets - er, pets and their designers.
Hochberg decided it would be fun in Vanity Fur to do the section on pets and designers but worried whether she'd find enough big wigs in fashion who owned animals. To her surprise, almost everybody she contacted had at least one animal; often two or more. And everybody throught his or her pet was, without a doubt, the most wonderful creature ever created.
People have real soft spots in their hearts for animals, the pet parody author stressed. In her opinion, it's because animals provide comfort not stress; affection without question. Human beings are judgmental, she said. Animals aren't. They love you for you - no matter what. They're happy just to have you home.
Her own home wouldn't be home without pets, she continued. Right now she's deeply involved in showing her Scotties and has some champions. There are West Highland Terriers padding about, too, and three Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. But no cats.
"I've had them before and I miss them," she said. "But my husband's so allergic. Fortunately, I have a makeup artist friend, Akira, who has a lovely cat called Snow and I visit with her often. Snow's on the cover of Vanity Fur along with my dog Annabel. If you look closely at Snow, you'll see that Akira has added eyeshadow and blusher to make her look glamorous. She made such a hit on the cover that now she has her own modeling contract and makes big money in the profession - maybe more than Akira!"
Hochberg's pet parodies have inspired more than just modeling contracts for fancy felines, though. They've inspired copycats. On bookshelves today you'll find numerous other titles by other authors. CQ - Canine Quarterly (instead of GQ - Gentlemen's Quarterly). . . Cowsmopolitan. . . Pupple (instead of People). . . The Best of Playboar (with apologies to Playboy). . . Teddy's Bearzaar (sorry, Harper's Bazaar) etc. etc. etc. Not to be outdone, we even decided to entitle this article Pawsmopolitan.
And will Hochberg once again add to the ever-growing list?
Maybe yes. Maybe no. These days she's very busy giving talks for the humane society and supporting animal rights. But if her public wanted more pet parodies - well. . . .
It's almost the same thing Salt Lake's Nannette Holmberg told us when we asked if she'd ever design for animals again after creating clothes for Josh and Kuhn. "Just depends what people want," said the designer thoughtfully. "Knits might be fun to do. They're very important in fashion these days, you know. Yes, little dog sweaters might be very nice."