In a sprawling two-story loft high above Manhattan’s fashion district, the gorgeous Felicity, Teddy and Ricky stroll among the racks of stylish dresses, almost as if they own the place. But these three aren’t models, they’re dogs, real dogs, — an English Staffordshire terrier, a Cairn terrier, and a Belgian shepherd, respectively. They happen to be as much at home as any of the dozens of models and designers who stream in and out of the loft each day.
Showroom Seven, the bustling designers’ collective run by Karen Erickson, creates clothing and accessories for Ghost, John Galliano, Nicole Miller, Donna Karan and others. The motto here: animals rule. “When we interview prospective employees,” says Erickson with a laugh, “the first thing we ask is ‘what magazines do you read?’ The next question is; do you like pets?” The dogs, who belong to showroom staffers — and share the space peacefully with several cats — are all foundlings. Teddy was picked up wandering along 37th Street. “We think he escaped from a dog-fight ring,” says Erickson. Like the others he has the loving, imploring face of an animal who feels safe and content.
Upstairs on the loft’s second story, you’re likely to find a cat curled up and snoozing on some in-box atop a desk. The cats — Archie, Vincent, Edith – who live in the showroom fulltime, also keep the place mice-free. “Its so much healthier to work with animals,” says Erickson, stroking Maisy, an intelligent red-hued hound who has mastered the art of opening the showroom’s push-handle doors.
Several times a day, in a flurry of fur and paws, Erickson leads the dogs to the loft’s spacious outdoor terrace for feeding, fresh air and exercise. The terrace also doubles as a busy photographer’s space, where Cindy Crawford often poses and hot photographers like Mark Seliger regularly work. After seventeen years in fashion, Erickson and her partners have expanded their business to sixty-five employees. The company houses design, studios, accessories, and a fast-growing public relations firm, dubbed Seventh House. Karen’s daughter Mandie, producer of the recent Ghost runway show, runs it.
“Our love of animals doesn’t help us get business,” admits Erickson, “but you do have a natural rapport with people who have pets.” Which always makes for quite a sight when a supermodel forgets how fabulous she is for a minute — even if just a minute — and bends her long legs to pet one of the showroom’s true stars.