How do you make an impression with a new collection of spring clothes? Fashion designer Miho Aoki enlisted feline models

By Helin Jung
Updated December 08, 2009 02:15 AM

Fashion designer Miho Aoki was brainstorming unique ways to photograph United Bamboo’s Spring 2010 clothing collection when it came to her: nameneko, the trend from her native Japan of dressing up cats in costume and photographing them.

One of the designers of the fashion label United Bamboo, Aoki and her co-designer Thuy Pham turned to the furry model they new best, their 10-year-old tuxedo cat named TJ. Now, TJ and many other cats are starring in United Bamboo’s 2010 calendar of cat fashions inspired by Aoki’s favorite pieces from the latest collection.

The idea, which Aoki worked out with photographer Noah Sheldon, was to photograph the cats, shown above, in an elegant way. “We thought it should be as model-like as possible,” Sheldon tells “Because it would be inherently goofy, we should shoot it not goofy.”

Aoki said that her initial plan was to just have TJ model all the clothes, some of which were made from leftover fabric she had collected over the years. “But it’s woven fabric, and it’s very difficult to make the pattern fit,” Aoki says. “Cats move like a snake, so I ended up having to do a casting call.”

The designer and photographer reached out to their Facebook contacts asking for feline models. “It was really hard,” Sheldon says. “We had cats come all day. There was one that was still nursing and would just come right out of the clothes. People thought we were crazy.”

The kooky idea paid off – the first images from the calendar were just released last week, and United Bamboo has already received orders for over a hundred calendars. “That is a lot for us, actually!” Aoki says.

The company is taking orders via email (, and hopes to finish the calendar by the end of November. They plan to donate the proceeds to a cat charity.