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Deborah Gregory, “Feline Fatale”, 10/01/2008
Deborah Gregory, “Feline Fatale”
Interview by Guest Contributor Phyllis Cox

On one of the hottest Saturdays in September, I was privileged to meet Deborah Gregory at the Brooklyn Book Fair. Gregory, author of the popular teen series, "Cheetah Girls" and her newest book, "Catwalk" about four teens' girls at Manhattan's Fashion International High School was purr-fect in this element. She was so funny, gregarious and forthright that I welcomed the opportunity to know more about her and the distinctive style of animal-like prints and patterns that she is fond of. This day she was wearing a leopard-like wrap dress accented with leopard slip-ons. Her visage was flawless and smooth even in the sweltering heat. As a former fashion beauty editor, Gregory could fall slave to fashions of the day but she has instead forged her own style, which she calls, "feline fatale".

Phyllis: Your signature look is animal print. How did that come about?

Deborah: It's actually a lifelong commitment, a lifelong style and lifestyle commitment. The inspiration? I grew up in the boogie down Bronx, which is home of the Bronx Zoo, the largest zoo in the world. I have a natural affinity to wildcats, a very strong affinity actually, I would say and I am very close to animals actually. So I would say that influenced my look.

I made my first dress by hand when I was eleven years old; I was a very avid sewer... you know I graduated from FIT, but I was an avid sewer, the basic Singer sewing machine, class, the vogue patterns and animal prints. And so I sort of gravitated toward those animal prints and I also like very loud colors.  I love pink, so that's my natural style and I've always loved it. I've never outgrown it. You know, I don't care what Vogue says; animal prints are always in style.

I love Josephine Baker by the way... in the twenties she would walk around like that and she had a pet leopard in Paris. And then there was another woman, she actually was very tragic...  a Mexican, Lupe Velez, she used to wear leopard clothes. There has always been, throughout time, a cat girl such as myself... that's what I call it. The style actually has a name; I call it "feline fatale"...

Phyllis: Do you think Josephine Baker influenced your style?

Deborah: I didn't grow up with TV, and 'My style' was already in place by the time I discovered her... I was completely unaware of Josephine Baker until the 90's when the movie brought her into the forefront... I watched the movie, read a book published by her son, saw the photos and then I said oh, "This is someone like me..." she was what do you call it, a kindred spirit...



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