le chien

Feathers on Fur

Formal looks by Orostani Couture translate beautifully on good-natured canines.

Lisa Marie Hart Fashion Week El Paseo

le chien
Le Chien became Le Masquerade March 19 at Fashion Week El Paseo in Palm Desert.

There are people who will put a dress on their dog and people who won’t. Then, there are people who make a night out of watching dogs in dresses prance down a runway. No faction was disappointed last night at the Le Chien Masquerade Party, the second evening of Fashion Week El Paseo 2017.

An annual favorite, this all-ages event puts family-friendly vibe and designer fashion in the same tent as dogs, divas, and drinks. And it works like a sled dog. The show’s impressive proceeds benefit the Humane Society of the Desert, a 56 years strong local samaritan for rescued canines.

Coastal Collection presented the multi-faceted celebration of furry friends that kicked off with cocktails, cupcakes, a trunk show, silent auction, and party-style DJ in the reception tent. Girls in curls, sundresses, and wedge sandals held hands with moms who strutted to the music in much less fabric. Some ticket holders wore Venetian masks to play up the masquerade theme. A smattering of four-legged guests showed up to support their own. (Wait. Did I just see a pony walk by?)

Why, yes I did.

An element of surprise is always inherent in this show. For 2017, masked models had far more to contend with than the height of their Valentinos.

Some dogs took to the runway like a walk in the park. Others needed an escort.

But first, the stage lights came up on a Cirque du Soleil-style jester who could juggle pins and hoop dance atop a yoga ball. Three winners of the Cutest Pet Photo Contest claimed the catwalk next, proud owners at their side.

After a Humane Society video of adorable, adoptable cat and dog faces, a pair of BFF dogs who need a good home together braved it down and back. Next, a rousing live auction raised more than $19,000 for the charity — on just four items. Granted, VIP Stagecoach tickets, courtside BNP Paribas seats, and dinner with opera star Placido Domingo aren’t exactly available on eBay.

Not sure who is leading who here, but everyone looks to be having a good time.

The upbeat, main event was a two-part fashion show, pairing designer pup attire by Orostani Couture with a more casual parade of Humane Society donors, rescue dogs in tow.

Olga Yuditsky is the young, Chicago-based designer behind the city-chic label. She has a considerable celebrity following and is known for designs that pack attitude and a street-hound edge. A crystal skull is one of her trademarks. It was refreshing to see she hadn’t simply packed up her best work and hopped a plane to So Cal. Her largely formal collection seemed tailor-made for El Paseo Fashion Week and the elaborate Masquerade Party theme.

Clad most often in black tanks and leggings, models didn’t detract from the fashion du jour. Their ornate masks of feathers and sequins complemented the glamorous designs on Chihuahuas and Yorkies.

Studded faux leather and distressed denim with floral appliqués rounded out the pedestrian. Skirts sewn of long, flowing ostrich feathers and sleek coats with sequins trim or studded cuffs displayed the designer’s attention to detail.

Several structured gowns must have been inspired by `16th century court finery and 19th century Victorian hoop skirts. Even as they swooped over the back end to frame a particularly nice tail, the costumes never got campy. Thoughtful, fitted looks—most notably a midnight-blue, satin dinner jacket and a red number Elvis would have loved—seemed purposeful and elevated.

More than a few laughs erupted when off-leash model dogs went rogue and headed backstage before reaching the end of the runway. It’s the canine fashion show equivalent of a hockey fight: those messy, authentic moments keep us coming back for more.

Only a few designs popped up as the expected “Why are you doing this to me?” puppy tutus. Even those showed designer skill and vision, done, for example, in a stylish ombre of white to gray to black. Never once did a dog appear distressed by its ensemble. These pups took the limelight in stride, a true test of dogged wearability.

In 2016, Yuditsky and her “fashion-forward luxury pet clothing line” appeared in fashion shows from Beverly Hills to Nashville and St. Petersburg, Fla. Last night at Le Chien, her “Dress like you’re already famous” tagline translated beautifully. It’s fair to say Marie Antoinette (and her feathered hairpieces and over-the-top gowns) were pretty well known.

In this dog-eat-dog world, “canine couture” is loosely and grossly overused to peddle everything from yellow rain slickers with matching boots to ripped muscle tees and ugly doggie Christmas sweaters. Bless Orostani Couture for showing a true talent for dressing the four-legged figure. Yuditsky produced respectable designs bent on converting those who swore they’d never see their Bichon Frise in a frock.

VIDEO: View the entire Le Chien show at Fashion Week El Paseo.