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Fashion: Habitrail of Tears

Seventh Avenue turns cute little hamsters into cute little outfits.


Both hamsters and models are prone to clawing, scratching, and sniffing. But while a model's life is never lacking in glamour, a hamster has to settle for being the preferred household pet of stingy parents. At $6.99 a pop (Petland's price for a dwarf hamster), they're condemned to a life of running on wheels, taking a breather, and then running on wheels some more -- all for the sake of children who really wanted a dog. But if hamsters' lives can never be glamorous, at least their deaths have taken a turn toward the trendy: An elite niche of dead hamsters have recently stampeded the fall-fashion runways.

"Look, it's just one pair of shoes," says a spokeswoman for John Bartlett. "A few seasons ago, he did a show that incorporated some hamster, but this time around, it's just a single pair of shoes." Asked why he scaled back, she will say only that Bartlett "felt very uncomfortable about it all," and refuses to comment further. On the other hand, a spokeswoman for Alberta Ferretti is downright jubilant about the company's fall hamster line: "We have some gorgeous pieces! One is a skirt-suit that looks like patchwork because it uses all different-colored hamsters: black, gray, brown, and white. The other piece is a reversible camel-leather coat -- the inside is all multicolored hamster fur." Whereas the Bartlett shoes were only a showpiece and are not for sale, Ferretti's patchwork skirt-suit is available for $6,360, and the reversible camel-leather coat for $6,030 (by Petland's prices, that adds up to 909 and 861 dead hamsters, respectively). Should those numbers give us pause? "Well, it's not like these hamsters are out in the wild and we shoot them down," says the Ferretti spokesperson. "They're farmed. I think it's more humane than using fox or rabbit -- society tends to think of those animals as clean and sweet."

One person who thinks that hamsters are clean and sweet is Eleanor Horowitz, 11, who has long been the proud owner of a hamster named Rascal. "I love Rascal because he's really fun to play with," she says. "He likes to sleep all day and play all night." What would she do if Rascal were used to make a patchwork skirt-suit? "I'd be very unhappy if fashion people killed him, especially to make a coat. It's just wrong." Why? "You have to use too many little hamsters -- and hamsters are really, really nice." If Eleanor sees someone on the street wearing hamster, she plans to run up and scream, "Those pants are really ugly! And unfashionable!" How does this news fall on the ears of Ferretti's spokesperson? "Well, I suppose when I was 7, I thought hamsters were sweet -- but not anymore! I'm hoping to buy that coat at the next sample sale!"


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