Cult Jewelry Designer Caitlin Mociun & Her Bengal Cat, Cleo
"I have put a gold chain bracelet around her neck as a collar for some photos, but she looks so perfect in just her spotty coat that I keep her au naturel."
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Caitlin Mociun designs handcrafted, locally produced jewelry with kaleidoscopic gemstones and her Brooklyn boutique is curated with vibrant paintings and artisan objects. So it’s fitting that her Rosette Bengal cat Cleo — with a boldly patterned coat and jade-hued eyes — would be a muse and mascot. As a kitten, Cleo would magically catwalk around ceramics in the shop window, and at Mociun’s eclectic home, she’s never scratched a thing — wild! We caught up with the designer to hear more about this divine creature.
Cleo is stunning. How well does she do her job as Mociun’s mascot?
I think she is the most wonderful cat in the whole world. She is so sweet and has the softest fur. She doesn’t break things or scratch furniture, and she snuggles with me every night. She is a great mascot as she is beautiful, though it can be a little difficult to get her to sit for photographs (lots of treats are involved). She does not enjoy the shop anymore. When she was a bold little kitten, she loved to run around and climb into the plants, watch leaves blowing on the street from the windows, and carefully walk among the cups and vases on our shelves. When I do bring her in now she b-lines for the closet and stays in there all day. She prefers to be at home now instead of the shop.
Her eyes look like jewels (not the first time you’ve been told that, I’m sure). Has she inspired any of your designs?
I have always wanted to do a collection based on her and her spots but it hasn’t materialized yet. It’s still brewing in my brain.
Does Cleo have her own jewelry, like a bejeweled cat collar?
Ha! I was going to make her a bejeweled collar! I have put a gold chain bracelet around her neck as a collar for some photos, but she looks so perfect in just her spotty coat that I keep her au naturel. Gold is so heavy— I just don’t think she likes the feeling of wearing anything.
Mociun has an admirable environmental and social philosophy. Can you talk a bit about your ethical approach and how important that is to you?
I have always done my best to weave some of these things into my brand because they are important to me. I have always felt that taking care of one’s own community is important. Thus, I have always done my production in New York — even when I had a clothing brand long ago under the same name, I produced it all here as well. I do my best to use up-cycled and antique diamonds and gemstones. As well, we work with a couple of gem dealers that focus on sustainability. They keep us informed on everything they know about the materials they are selling us. Most materials they know from mine to final cutting. So for each type of stone, we are able to know the impact on the environment and community that mines it.
Vogue recently published an article about the creative new ‘cat lady’ aesthetic, dispelling the old trope. Have you always been a cat person, and how would you describe the modern cat owner?
I have always had a thing for cats. I’ve lived with a cat from the time I was born. When we go on vacation — pretty much anywhere in the world — cats will find me. One will just pop up in a hotel or house we’ll be staying at and adopt us as their family for our short visit. I think the ‘cat lady’ stigma is going away. One can love their cat and truly have it as part of the family much like people have done with dogs for a long time. I think the stereotype of what cats are like is going away a bit, too. People are starting to see that cats have different and dynamic personalities.
I remember seeing your amazing home tour in Domino. How did you approach designing a space that is so subtly cat-friendly, e.g. faux-fur lined cat shelves, scratching post hidden beside the couch? And are there other secret Cleo spots?
We are just lucky really. Cleo likes her little scratching boards but has never scratched furniture. We made her a fancy cat wall but she doesn’t like to climb so much so we took it down. She prefers to crawl inside things and burrow — so a blanket or our bedding is really what she is after…or a pile of laundry (clean or dirty). She also really enjoys sleeping in the back of one of our closets.
Did she have any bad habits when she was a kitten that you had to train her out of?
The only naughty thing that we kind of had to train her out of was eating plants. She just grew out of it, but will still will do it here and there if she is feeling ignored. I just know she needs to have a play sesh if she goes and bites a plant.
Only in recent years have cat products begun to be well-designed, aesthetically speaking. Do you have any favorite products or brands?
Maybe I need to give the cat product world another look, but I haven’t seen anything out there that I am compelled to buy. We do buy her toys, but she loves a box and some crinkly paper. I call her ‘trash cat.’ Same with cat beds — she prefers our bed or a nice chair. She does have a little flattened felt pod that she sleeps on in front of the fireplace (this is her actual favorite spot but it’s the fire, not the bed that she likes). She also likes a small piece of white sheepskin that is at the foot of our bed — she likes to bite it a few times and then sleep on it.
Last but not least, how does Cleo enrich your life?
She just warms my heart and fills me with so much love. I feel very connected to her and she makes me smile when I wake up to her face every morning. She is a big and important part of my life, and very much a member of our family. I have had other cats before who I loved, but I have never had a cat that I felt this connected to. She’s my little sidekick.
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Samantha Gurrie is The Wildest’s editorial director. She was previously the senior editor at NYLON magazine, co-publisher of Four&Sons, and director at Puerto Rican dog rescue The Sato Project. She lives in L.A. with her husband and rescue Pit Bull mix Midnight.