- Associated Press - Sunday, February 10, 2013

NEW YORK (AP) - Any model will tell you: It’s hard to walk down a catwalk.

Especially when you’re an actual cat.

Designer Tracy Reese’s fall-winter show had a guest model, of the feline variety. The cat was supposed to be walked on a leash, but was a bit frightened, the designer explained backstage, and had to be cradled in the model’s arms for its one trip down the catwalk. Er, runway.

The cat, named Lily, was a 4-year-old Siamese Blue Point rescue cat, according to Purina ONE, which sponsored the show along with Reese and provided the feline visitor. The pet food company says it wants to bring attention to the fact that leash-training can benefit cats by incorporating activity into their lives.

As for the fashion, Lily may have been timid, but Reese’s designs were the opposite _ full of mixed prints and bold colors, like the floral-printed neoprene frock in pink, orange and black that accompanied the cat-bearing model.

Reese is perhaps best known for the shimmery pink and silvery-blue dress that Michelle Obama wore to the Democratic National Convention, and her dresses didn’t disappoint on Sunday, including a sleek black knee-length number with huge red flowers on it, its dainty shape contrasting nicely with the boldness of the print.

From flowers to animals: There were animal prints all over the collection. A cheetah-print coat opened the show, paired with a black lace shirt and a charcoal pant. The collection also included a cheetah tunic covering a cheetah skirt, a zebra-print trench over a crepe floral dress and an “animal jacquard” coat in tan and black worn over a sequined sweater.

“There are so many cool ways to use animal prints,” Reese said backstage. “Subtle and not so subtle. Even in the beading.”

Reese said she hoped women would become bolder about mixing prints _ like pairing an animal print with a floral. “Most women like to wear only one print at a time. But I like to mix them, and I wanted to open up the conversation a bit.”

The designer also pointed out a happy change on her runway: a focus on flat shoes.

“I’m so glad, because flats are my life!” Reese said. “These shoes are comfortable, useful and wearable. And fashionable. We’re not talking about the flats you wear to the office and then change into your heels.”

Short jackets also had a frequent presence on the runway, sometimes in eye-popping colors like a bright pink “lipstick leather,” or in a cute scarlet tartan.

But back to the cat: Cute as she was, the designer, alas, did not get to hold her.

“I’m highly allergic,” Reese confessed.

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