The fourth season of Project Runway starts taping next month, and Tim Gunn warmed up last night with Project Ruffway, a dog fashion show he hosted in a Chelsea gallery space. A benefit for Stray From the Heart, which rescues stray dogs around the globe, the show featured designer fashions for dogs and their walkers. A dog fashion show, it turns out, is a lot like a people fashion show. Looks were shown in the categories of eveningwear, weekend, resort, and “ruff and tumble” (“whatever that means,” Gunn unhelpfully explained), and many models, all adoptable or recently adopted, came from South America. Clothes were by top designers like Nicole Miller and Juicy Couture; Champagne was the drink of choice, though many well-heeled attendees sipped “Hair of the Dog” cocktails made with blood-orange juice, Champagne, and vodka; and the theme was taken seriously: hors d’oeuvre included little bone-shaped sandwiches of roast beef and grilled cheese and French fries in tiny bone-patterned paper cones.
When the Champagne and clean wine glasses ran out, guests moved from cocktail hour in an art gallery to the narrow white runway room, where the waiting began. Twenty-two minutes after the scheduled start time, Gunn, who skipped cocktail hour to memorize lines, finally appeared to start the show. “It’s going to be a night filled with puns,” he warned. “So let’s give a round of — I promised I’d say this — apaws!” Most dog models, who had no formal runway training, paused their struts down the cramped runway to flop at the feet of delighted, seated guests. Gunn awarded the best-dressed title to Rusty, a Jack Russell terrier in a pale-green seersucker hoodie, beating a pooch in a camouflage Juicy sweatshirt and quilted navy Cole Haan coat. And, finally, we discovered a difference between dog and people fashion shows. Here, guests were allowed to pet the models. —Amy Odell