12 Things You Didn't Know About New York Fashion Week

Brian Ach, Getty Images
Brian Ach, Getty Images

The holiday season is still about three months away, but for fashionistas everywhere, right now is the most wonderful time of the year: New York Fashion Week has begun. The city's biannual celebration of all things sartorial will see top fashion designers from Tory Burch to Marc Jacobs unveil their Spring 2019 collections to the public. (Not to mention Rihanna is set to present the latest from her lingerie line.)

Since its inception, Fashion Week has become synonymous with such iconic New York happenings as the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and the New York City Marathon. It has endured a multitude of venue and name changes over the years, which makes its historical timeline a little murky. But, there is no doubt that 2018 marks an auspicious year for the fashion industry, because it is the 75th anniversary of the event that would eventually morph into NYFW.

Whether you're a casual fan of couture or follow Anna Wintour's schedule to the minute, the best way to appreciate fashion's future is to tip a hat to its past. Before viewing the latest collections, read on for our roundup of 12 things you might not have known about New York Fashion Week.

1. WORLD WAR II WAS THE IMPETUS FOR THE FIRST STATESIDE PRESS WEEK.

A group of models wearing new fashions for American women preview the collection in August 1940.
A group of models wearing new fashions for American women preview the collection in August 1940.
A. Hudson, Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

In 1943, overseas travel to Paris, home to most fashion shows and the crown jewel of the industry, was nearly impossible for American journalists due to Germany's occupation of France. But, in a stroke of patriotic genius, an enterprising fashion publicist named Eleanor Lambert decided to create a series of fashion shows in New York featuring American designers instead.

In July of that year, Lambert—who also later founded the International Best-Dressed List—staged something called "Press Week" in New York City. Journalists were invited to view the latest fashions from—gasp!—American designers, rather than from those based in Paris (up until then, Parisian designers held the monopoly on what was considered couture). This groundbreaking move resulted in American designers getting plenty of ink in the pages of reputable fashion magazines, and it helped turn New York into a fashion hub.

2. FOR THE FIRST TIME, AMERICAN DESIGNERS HAD THEIR TIME IN THE SARTORIAL SPOTLIGHT.

A woman models a swimsuit in a 1956 issue of Vogue.
A fashion shoot in Vogue, May 1956.
Kristine, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

No longer beholden to Parisian influences, American designers could present home-grown American fashion to the public. Not only were the looks created by Americans, but the clothes were made in the U.S.A. as well. Most importantly, Lambert's Press Week resulted in magazines like Vogue and Harper's Bazaar highlighting American designers by name, finally giving them a platform that had until that time mostly eluded them.

3. THE FIRST PRESS WEEK WAS HELD AT A SINGLE LOCATION: THE PLAZA HOTEL.

New York's Plaza Hotel.
New York City's Plaza Hotel.
Christian, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Norman Norell, Claire McCardell, and Valentina were among the 53 designers who showcased their fashions at New York's famed Plaza Hotel. It was a far more relaxed experience for the journalists in attendance, because all of the fashion shows were held in the same location. Over the next several decades, Fashion Week would evolve into a logistical nightmare; with no home base, it became not uncommon for reporters to run around the city from show to show.

4. UNLIKE TODAY, WHERE NYFW ATTRACTS EVERYONE FROM JOURNALISTS TO BUYERS TO CELEBRITIES, LAMBERT'S PRESS WEEK WAS JUST THAT—FOR THE PRESS ONLY.

Models walk in the Douglas Hannant show during Fashion Week in September 2002.
Models walk in the Douglas Hannant show during Fashion Week in September 2002.
Mark Mainz, Getty Images

In the beginning, Press Week was closed to buyers, who were forced to view upcoming lines via scheduled showroom visits instead. Lambert was also integral in opening up the fashion world to non-New York City America: She offered to pay the expenses of any out-of-town reporters who wanted to cover the event. It was a serious win for budding fashion journalists, because prior to Press Week, the only way regional reporters could view New York collections was if they tagged along with local store buyers on their showroom visits.

5. RALPH LAUREN'S FIRST FASHION WEEK SHOW WASN'T MUCH TO SNIFF AT, BUT HE LIKED IT THAT WAY.

Designer Ralph Lauren
Designer Ralph Lauren at his Fall 1997 show.
JON LEVY, AFP/Getty Images

It wouldn't be NYFW without mainstay Ralph Lauren, but as he recounts in the 2018 book American Runway: 75 Years of Fashion and the Front Row, by Booth Moore, the now-icon wasn't exactly a draw in his early years. "We set up chairs in my office at 40 West 55th Street," Lauren said of his first women’s collection for the Fall 1972 season. "There were only 10 or 15 editors and about 10 models. They strolled in one at a time, and I talked about the clothes. Looking back, I loved that intimacy."

6. FASHION WEEK'S BREAKING POINT CAN BE PEGGED TO A NOTORIOUS MICHAEL KORS SHOW IN THE EARLY 1990S.

Designer Michael Kors.
Designer Michael Kors at his Spring 2005 show.
Mark Mainz, Getty Images

The decades following the first Press Week saw fashion shows moving from the stodgy Plaza and Pierre Hotels to lofts, galleries, nightclubs and restaurants. (These incredible Betsey Johnson shows from the 1980s are a great example of Fashion Week's "anything goes" attitude at this point.) But it was an accident at a Michael Kors show that necessitated a revamp of the entire Fashion Week experience. When the bass kicked in during the song "Use It Up and Wear It Out" by Odyssey, plaster from the ceiling came loose and started falling on both editors in the audience and models as they walked the runway. "I vividly remember the dust clearing and seeing Anna Wintour picking lumps of plaster out of Suzy Menkes's hair," recalled Barney's Simon Doonan in his 2013 book, The Asylum.

7. EVEN BEYOND THE MICHAEL KORS SHOW INCIDENT, FASHION WEEK'S FLIMSY PRODUCTION STANDARDS HAD BEEN AN ISSUE FOR A WHILE.

Anna Wintour at fashion week.
Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour at a 2004 New York Fashion Week show.
Peter Kramer, Getty Images for Olympus Fashion Week

Fern Mallis, then the executive director of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, decided something needed to be done after that Kors show. "There were seasons where editors were getting pulled out of freight elevators or had to wait for hours for power to go back on in Soho lofts," Mallis told Racked. "People were putting their lives on the line to see fashion shows—it was frightening." Plus it was a fatiguing ordeal just to see the shows, with no main hub for any of them: "If there were 50 designers showing during a season, there were 50 venues," Moore wrote in American Runway.

8. IN 1994, NEW YORK'S PREVIOUSLY HAPHAZARD FASHION WEEK SHOWS MOVED TO A NEW VENUE: BRYANT PARK.

Fern Mallis attends a New York Fashion Week event in 2017.
Fern Mallis attends a New York Fashion Week event in 2017.
Ben Gabbe, Getty Images

Mallis is credited with reorganizing New York Fashion Week into the twice-yearly event it's known as today. Between 1994 and 2010, Bryant Park's signature white tents were the home of NYFW's runway shows, providing a safe, creative space for models, journalists, and scenesters alike. And from a utilitarian perspective, the Bryant Park years proved cost-effective for designers. Previously, the location, lighting, sound and security for a Fashion Week show was the responsibility of the designer. With the advent of the Bryant Park tents, NYFW became one-stop shopping.

9. RONALD MCDONALD ONCE SHOWED UP AT AN ANNA SUI SHOW IN 1996.

Linda Ramone browses vintage clothes in 2010.
Linda Ramone browses vintage clothes in 2010.
Angela Weiss, Getty Images

As she recounted for Vogue, designer Anna Sui had an unconventional guest at her Fall 1996 show—fast-food celebrity Ronald McDonald, outfitted in a snappy dark suit. But that wasn't the most surprising part of the story: The McDonald's spokesperson had some serious competition in the bright orange wig category—Sui's friend Linda Ramone, then-wife of punk-rocker Johnny Ramone, was also in the audience, similarly bewigged.

10. THE ONLY TIME FASHION WEEK HAS BEEN CANCELED WAS IN SEPTEMBER 2001.

Pregnant models prepare backstage for the Liz Lange Couture Show during NYFW in September 2004.
Pregnant models prepare backstage for the Liz Lange Couture Show during NYFW in September 2004.
Frazer Harrison, Getty Images

The 9/11 terrorist attacks occurred on what should have been the fourth day of NYFW. Following maternity designer Liz Lange's 9 a.m. runway show—which marked the first time a maternity line had been featured at Fashion Week—all remaining events were canceled.

11. THE FIRST SEX AND THE CITY FILM DID NOT ACTUALLY SHOOT THAT FASHION WEEK SCENE AT NYFW.

Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon, Kim Cattrall, and Sarah Jessica Parker arrive at the world premiere of the
Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon, Kim Cattrall, and Sarah Jessica Parker arrive at the world premiere of the "Sex and the City" movie in May 2008.
SHAUN CURRY, AFP/Getty Images

What do you get when you combine corporate sponsorship with movie magic? A very realistic-looking New York Fashion Week show prominently featured in 2008's Sex and the City film. That's right—the scene where Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda, and Samantha meet up to debate the merits of front-row seats at NYFW versus front-row seats at the Brooklyn aquarium, with some side-marveling at the latest collections, was all fake. Kind of. Since Fashion Week didn't coincide with the movie's shooting schedule, Mercedes-Benz, then the sponsor of NYFW, agreed to assemble its immediately recognizable white tents for the scene—in exchange for promotional placement. Not that Samantha wouldn't have chosen a Benz for her new Hollywood lifestyle, but this arrangement sure made the choice easier.

12. NYFW WAS FORCED TO RELOCATE FROM LINCOLN CENTER AFTER PARK ADVOCATES SUED THE CITY'S PARKS DEPARTMENT.

Models walk in New York Fashion Week.
Models walk during New York Fashion Week at Lincoln Center in February 2015.
Andrew H. Walker, Getty Images for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week

The downside to New York Fashion Week's ever-growing success was that by 2010, the Bryant Park location could no longer fit the expanding throngs of attendees and presenting designers. The proceedings moved to Lincoln Center, the city's famed multi-venue arts complex, for the next four years, but in 2013 a group called the New York City Park Advocates sued the city's Parks Department over NYFW's purported encroachment on the Lincoln Center-adjacent Damrosch Park. The following year, the state's Supreme Court determined Lincoln Center couldn't renew its contract with IMG (the company that owns and operates NYFW). In the settlement, it was decided that the biannual event must take its tents and catwalks elsewhere. Currently, NYFW's shows are staged in Tribeca, but a new development along the Hudson River called The Shed could become the event's new home as early as next year. As they say in the industry: One day you're in, and the next day you're out.

20 Surprising Facts About Benedict Cumberbatch

Larry Busacca, Getty Images
Larry Busacca, Getty Images

If Benedict Cumberbatch isn't careful, he might just run out of dream roles to play. Since the earliest days of his career, the 42-year-old actor has made no secret that there were two roles at the top of his character bucket list: Hamlet and Patrick Melrose, the protagonist at the center of Edward St Aubyn's critically acclaimed series of novels.

In 2015, Cumberbatch took the stage in London to do the whole "to be or not to be" thing. (More on that later.) In 2018, he starred in Patrick Melrose, Showtime's television adaptation of the book series, and earned both Golden Globe and Emmy nominations for the role. Now, Cumberbatch is back on the small screen—and bald—for the HBO movie Brexit, which premieres on January 19th.

1. He made his stage debut playing a "very bossy" Joseph in a Nativity play.

In a 2010 interview with London Theatre, Cumberbatch shared that his first stage performance found him playing “a very bossy Joseph in the Nativity play at primary school. Apparently I pushed Mary offstage because she was taking too long. Actresses eh!”

2. He thinks his name sounds like "a fart in a bath."

There’s something very regal-sounding about a name like Benedict Cumberbatch, but it’s not one that necessarily rolls right off the tongue. The Washington Post once identified the actor as “Bandersnatch Cummerbund” (though later clarified that it was a joke). But there have been plenty of other mix-ups—like the time a television show ID'ed him as “Benedict Cumberpatch” (which sort of has a nice ring to it).

Cumberbatch had a feeling that his name might cause problems in his career, which is why he began his career as Benedict Carlton (which is his middle name). Ultimately, it was his agent who convinced him to use Cumberbatch, even though the actor said the surname sounds like “a fart in a bath.”

3. He toyed with the idea of becoming a lawyer.

Though he grew up in a family of actors, Cumberbatch wasn’t always planning to live his life out in front of a camera. In fact, it was because of his parents’ chosen profession that they encouraged him to pursue a more stable calling, which led him to want to become a criminal lawyer.

“[Acting is] a very odd, peripatetic, crazed, out of your control work and social schedule,” Cumberbatch told The Mirror in 2015. “It's very hard to plan a family life, let alone know where the next paycheck is coming from so they worked very, very hard as my parents, and actors, to afford me an education whereby I had the opportunity and the privilege to try and channel myself towards other goals.

“For a while, I wanted to be a barrister because there's definitely a crossover with criminal law—with trying to persuade an audience and a jury and a judge of the case and your client's story so I did go down that route for a little bit. I think they would have been very happy if I ended up there."

He spoke with Vulture about his legal leanings, too, and noted that, “I would've loved the performance of court, the idea of persuading people, storytelling and all that. It parallels beautifully with acting, lots of frustrated, amateur dramatics going on in court all the time. I think lots of barristers literally perform in amateur dramatic societies and are very good actors. It's a massive crossover."

4. His parents on Sherlock are also his parents in real life.

Speaking of Cumberbatch’s parents: While both Timothy Carlton and Wanda Ventham are familiar faces as actors in their own right, fans of Sherlock might also be quick to recognize them as Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes’s parents.

In 2014, Cumberbatch told the Press Association that he was a little nervous about working with his parents, as “They’re Equity card carrying members but you know it was nerve-wracking because they are actors as well and yet they were brilliant and they were fantastic.”

5. He spent a year teaching in India.

During a gap year, Cumberbatch decided to volunteer his time and teach English at a Tibetan monastery in Darjeeling, India. “I’d always been fascinated by the idea of meditation and what it meant,” he told Lion’s Roar. “In India, I went on a retreat with a lama—several days of incantation to clear and purify the mind—along with a dozen other people. It was incredible, and I kind of floated out of there after two weeks."

Though teaching and acting may seem unrelated, many of the skills and practices Cumberbatch learned during that time eventually helped him in his acting career. “Stillness is an essential part of acting,” he said, “so I already had a certain amount of focus in that beforehand. A still point is a very, very hard place to find, especially among the usual kind of pulped sheep pushed around by the blinking flashing world of modern technology.”

6. He was kidnapped in South Africa.

While filming the 2005 miniseries To the Ends of the Earth, Cumberbatch experienced another kind of epiphany when he nearly lost his life. The actor and two of his co-stars took a day off to learn how to scuba dive near Mozambique. On their way back from the outing, the actor explained, “The three of us were trying to change the tire. These six men appeared suddenly from the eucalyptus. They said: 'Put your hands on your head, don't look at us,' and were frisking us for drugs, money, weapons. Then they bundled us into the car. They dragged me up and put me in the boot of the car.”

Like so many of the quick-thinking characters he has played, Cumberbatch realized his only option was to try and argue his way out of the situation:

“I said: ‘If you leave me in here, it’s not the lack of air, it’s the small space. There’s a problem with my heart and my brain.’

“I just tried to explain to them: ‘I will die, possibly have a fit, and it will be a problem for you. I will be a dead Englishman in your car. Not good.’

“They shut the boot and had an argument, and then pulled me out. So I kind of thank God I had the presence of mind to give them the idea that it would be better to keep me alive. And the other two hadn’t been harmed.”

In a way, the incident became the impetus for Cumberbatch to pursue his dreams even more aggressively. “It taught me that you come into this world as you leave it, on your own,” he said. “It’s made me want to live a life slightly less ordinary.”

7. Julian Assange tried to talk him out of starring in The Fifth Estate.

Benedict Cumberbatch as Julian Assange in 'The Fifth Estate' (2013)
DreamWorks

In 2013, a very white-haired Cumberbatch played the role of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in Bill Condon’s The Fifth Estate. In preparing for the role, Cumberbatch—ever the dutiful actor—reached out to Assange about arranging a meeting. Assange’s response, which went viral, was rather epic. Though he assured Cumberbatch that he would very much enjoy meeting him, and that he believed they would get along, he spent the bulk of his word count telling the actor why making the film was a terrible idea:

“You will be used, as a hired gun, to assume the appearance of the truth in order to assassinate it. To present me as someone morally compromised and to place me in a falsified history. To create a work, not of fiction, but of debased truth.

“Not because you want to, of course you don't, but because, in the end, you are a jobbing actor who gets paid to follow the script, no matter how debauched.

“Your skills play into the hands of people who are out to remove me and WikiLeaks from the world.

“I believe that you should reconsider your involvement in this enterprise.”

The film went forward as planned, with Cumberbatch in the lead (though it was a critical and box office failure, which likely pleased Assange).

8. He is easily starstruck.

When asked during a Reddit AMA whether he’s ever been starstruck while meeting or working with a fellow actor, Cumberbatch admitted that it happens all the time: “Uhhhhhhhh. Every time I've met someone famous who I've been in the audience of,” he said. “I have the same butterflies and inability to be cool. I approach them as a fellow member of the human race as the next person in their audience does. I've been doing this for 10 odd years, and so to meet people who thrilled me with their work for my entire life in such a concentrated manner as has happened over the last few years has been mind-blowing.”

9. Ted Danson was really, really excited to meet him.

While Cumberbatch may get nervous every time he meets an acting hero, one well-known actor who was pretty excited to meet Cumberbatch was Cheers star Ted Danson. When asked during a Reddit AMA to share the “weirdest encounter you've had with a fan,” Cumberbatch answered: “Ted Danson at a pre-Oscar party screaming across a floor of people like Leonardo DiCaprio, Ray Liotta, Kristen Stewart, Kirsten Dunst, et al while pushing past them and knocking their drinks. ‘OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD! IT'S F***ING SHERLOCK HOLMES!’”

10. He wasn't immediately sold on playing Sherlock Holmes.

Though playing the titular “consulting detective” in Sherlock is the role that brought Cumberbatch global recognition, saying yes to the part wasn’t exactly a no-brainer for the actor. While speaking at a BAFTA event in 2014, Cumberbatch admitted that he was actually a little hesitant to sign on for the project. “I heard about it and thought that sounds like an idea to [re-franchise] something to make money,” he said. “It could be a bit cheap and cheesy. Then I found out who was involved and realized it wouldn’t be cheap and cheesy.

“My mum had done a few episodes of Coupling with Steven [Moffat] and Mark Gatiss was a huge hero of mine when I was a student in League Of Gentleman,” Cumberbatch continued, “so I knew the stable was good. I thought I would read it and then I fell in love with it.”

11. The BBC wasn't sure Cumberbatch was "sexy" enough to pull off Sherlock.


BBC

It’s funny to think about now, considering Cumberatch’s massive worldwide fanbase, but just as the actor wasn’t immediately sold on playing Sherlock Holmes, the BBC wasn’t sure the actor was a great match for the role—because they wanted someone with sex appeal. While speaking at the Hay Festival in 2014, Sherlock co-creator Steven Moffat talked about the BBC’s track record in determining which actors might connect with audiences—Cumberbatch being one of them.

“They said of casting David Tennant as Casanova, ‘Damn, you should have cast someone sexier,’” Moffat said. “With Benedict Cumberbatch, we were told the same thing. ‘You promised us a sexy Sherlock, not him.’”

Sue Vertue, a fellow producer on Sherlock (and Moffat's wife), relayed a similar tale to Entertainment Weekly just a few months prior to Moffat’s comments, telling the magazine: “When we first cast [Cumberbatch], people were saying, ‘You promised us a sexy one!’ People weren’t thinking of Benedict in that light at all.” His name, apparently, posed another problem: “When people said, ‘Who’s playing Sherlock Holmes?’ and we’d say, ‘Benedict Cumberbatch,’ everyone looked very vague,” Vertue said. “Then we’d always have to spell his name.”

12. He is (distantly) related to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

It turns out that Sherlock Holmes may have been the role Cumberbatch was born to play. In 2017, researchers at Ancestry.com made the rather fascinating discovery that Cumberbatch and Sherlock Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle are sixteenth cousins, twice removed. The ancestral link between the two is former Duke of Lancaster John of Gaunt, who was Doyle’s 15th great-grandfather and Cumberbatch’s 17th great-grandfather.

13. He also has a family link to Alan Turing.

Amazingly, the Conan Doyle connection wasn’t the first time Cumberbatch’s ancestry was linked to one of his characters. In 2014, the same team of researchers determined that Cumberbatch was the 17th cousin of Alan Turing, the computer scientist/codebreaker he played in Morten Tyldum’s The Imitation Game (2014)—a role that earned Cumberbatch an Oscar nomination in 2015.

14. He has been rendered in chocolate on more than one occasion.


UKTV/FLICKR

In a somewhat bizarre promotional campaign by Britain’s UKTV in 2015, Cumberbatch narrowly beat out David Tennant by a margin of just one percent to be named “TV Dishiest Drama Actor.” The prize? Having a life-sized statue, made entirely of Belgian chocolate, created in the actor’s likeness.

It took a team of eight people more than 250 man-hours to construct the delicious doppelgänger, dubbed “Benedict Chocobatch." In 2016, he was recreated in the sweet stuff again, though this time as an edible chocolate bunny/Benedict hybrid that fans could actually purchase … and eat.

15. He turned Hamlet into "the most in-demand show of all time."

In 2015, Cumberbatch achieved one of his lifetime dreams when it was announced that he would play Hamlet in a 12-week run at London’s Barbican theater. Tickets ended up selling out almost as fast as one could say “To be or not to be.” As The Telegraph reported in 2014:

"The curtain does not go up on the production for another year, but Cumberbatch's Hamlet is nevertheless outselling the next most popular show, the current run of A Streetcar Named Desire at the Young Vic, by four to one. The show has even registered 214 per cent more ticket searches in the hours after tickets were released than Beyoncé and Jay Z’s global On the Run tour.

Hamlet tickets went on sale at 10am on August 11 and within minutes fans were expressing frustration at finding themselves more than 20,000 places back in the queue."

16. He's the leading man in a lot of fan fiction.

In addition to being a leading man on the stage and both the small and big screens, Cumberbatch plays a starring role in a lot of fan fiction. A lot of fan fiction! In 2013, The Mirror estimated that approximately 100 million words of fan fiction had been written about the Sherlock star. Considering that was six years ago, the word count has certainly only grown.

17. Simon Pegg convinced him that he might have radiation poisoning.

Benedict Cumberbatch stars in 'Star Trek Into Darkness' (2013)
Paramount Pictures

While filming Star Trek: Into Darkness, Simon Pegg decided to have a little fun with Cumberbatch by convincing him that he was at risk for radiation exposure. According to Pegg, it worked. He recounted the story to The Sun in 2013:

"I don't like seeing people get embarrassed. But we were filming in a nuclear facility and one day I said that Chris [Pine] needed neutron cream—otherwise he'd get sunburn. He said, 'What?' And I said, 'Yeah, you'll get a rash from ambient radiation in the air.' From there the trick spread to other cast members. Finally, we got Benedict. He had this speech and he kept f***ing it up. Afterwards he said, 'Guys, I'm ever so sorry —I've got a real headache. I think the ions were getting to me.' He was so convinced."

18. He has a rare genetic mutation.

If Cumberbatch’s eyes seem to regularly change color, you’re not imagining things: The actor was born with both central heterochromia and sectoral heterochromia—two rare-but-harmless genetic mutations that affect his eyes. Each of his eyes has multiple colors (a mix of blue, green, and gold) because of the central heterochromia, and the sectoral heterochromia is the reason why he has a brown “freckle” on his right eye.

But ask the actor what his favorite part of his body is, and the eyes have got it. “I guess as an actor your eyes are vital in conveying any internal thought process or feeling, and for that I have my mum to thank,” he said.

19. He's not cool with "Cumberbitches."

When Cumberbatch’s massive contingency of female fans dubbed themselves “Cumberbitches,” the actor took issue with the pejorative moniker. “It’s not even politeness,” he said of his distaste for the term. “I won’t allow you to be my bitches. I think it sets feminism back so many notches. You are ... Cumberpeople."

20. He has been a vocal proponent of closing the gender pay gap.

Equal pay in Hollywood is a hot-button topic, and Cumberbatch has made his stance on the issue very clear by stating that he won’t work on a project if his female co-stars aren’t being paid the same. "Equal pay and a place at the table are the central tenets of feminism," Cumberbatch told Radio Times. "Look at your quotas. Ask what women are being paid, and say: 'If she’s not paid the same as the men, I’m not doing it.'"

13 Fascinating Facts About Pallas’s Cats

iStock.com/NEALITPMCCLIMON
iStock.com/NEALITPMCCLIMON

Far across the world, an elusive—and adorable—wildcat called the Pallas’s cat (also known as the manul) roams the grasslands and steppes of Central Asia and Eurasia. Get to know the flat-faced, furry kitty, which has been featured in memes and viral videos and recently received its own wildlife preserve in Asia’s Altai Mountains.

1. It's named after naturalist Peter Pallas.

German naturalist Peter Pallas first described the furry wildcat in 1776. He named the kitty Felis manul, and theorized that it was an ancestor of the Persian cat, due to its round face, luxurious coat, and stocky body. (He was wrong.)

2. Its scientific name means "ugly-eared."

Later on, the cat's scientific name was changed from Felis manul to Otocolobus manul—not exactly the most flattering moniker, since Otocolobus is Greek for “ugly-eared.”

3. Its unusual ears come in handy.

Some may consider the Pallas’s cat’s ears to be ugly, while others might think they’re adorable. Arguments aside, the cat’s round ears—which sit flat on the sides of its head—are one of the feline's most distinguishing features. As Crystal DiMiceli, a former wild animal keeper at Brooklyn's Prospect Park Zoo, explains in the above video, having low-positioned ears helps the cat conceal itself—they don’t poke up to reveal the animal's position while it's hiding or hunting.

4. It has a dense, plush coat.

The coat of the Pallas's cat is its true crowning glory. It’s longer and denser than any other coat belonging to a member of the Felid species (growing in even heavier in the winter), and the undercoat on its belly is twice as long as the fur covering the rest of its body. The shade ranges from silvery grey during the winter to a darker, red-toned hue during warmer months. (Some cats are also red, particularly in Central Asia.) Its broad head is streaked and speckled with dark markings, and its bushy tail is banded with stripes and a dark tip. These markings tend to appear darker during the summer.

5. Its fur blends with its habitat, which conceals it from predators.

Pallas's cats live in areas ranging from Pakistan and northern India to central China, Mongolia, and southern Russia. According to Wild Cats of the World, by Luke Hunter, its body isn’t adapted for snow, so it sticks to cold, arid habitats—particularly grassy or rocky areas, which help conceal it from predators—at elevations of around 1500 to nearly 17,000 feet. The stocky cat isn’t a fast runner, so when it senses danger, it freezes and crouches flat and motionless on the ground, and its fur helps it blend in with its surroundings.

6. Pallas's cats aren't fat—they're just furry.

Pallas's cats typically weigh less than 12 pounds, and they’re usually only 2 feet or less in body length—meaning they’re not that much larger than an ordinary house cat. Yet their dense coat of fur makes them appear much larger.

7. Their pupils are round instead of vertical.

Pallas's cats do share one feature in common with larger wildcats, like lions and tigers: their eyes. Their pupils are round, whereas a house cat's pupils are vertical and slit-shaped. Wondering why some cats have round pupils while others have vertical ones? A 2015 study conducted by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley found that animals’ pupil shapes might indicate their role in the predator/prey food chain. They analyzed 214 species of land animals (including cats), and noted that species with vertical pupils tended to be ambush predators that were active during both day and night. In contrast, species with vertical pupils were often “active foragers,” meaning they chase their prey. Also, predators that are closer to the ground, like house cats, were prone to vertical pupils, whereas larger wildcats had round ones. Pallas’s cats are small, and they are primarily ambush hunters, so the jury’s still out on whether the study's findings hold true for all creatures.

8. They subsist mostly on pika.

A Pallas's cat sticks its tongue out
iStock.com/Nikolai Vakhrushev

Pallas's cats are ambush hunters and spend much of their time hunting pika, a small mammal, and other critters like gerbils, voles, hares, ground squirrels, birds, and young marmots. Pika typically make up more than 50 percent of the cat's diet. 

9. They may be distantly related to the leopard cat.

Peter Pallas thought the animal was related to the Persian cat. (We think it looks like a Maine Coon and a Scottish Fold had a baby and weaned it on steroid milk.) However, experts have uncovered evidence that the wildcat’s nearest—yet still pretty distant—relative might be the leopard cat.

10. They's not social animals.

The Pallas's cat is notoriously elusive and spends much of its time hiding in caves, crevices, or abandoned burrows.

11. They don't seem to like each other much.

A pair of Pallas's cats size each other up
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Pallas's cats may be adorably fluffy, but they aren’t the world’s sweetest, most cuddly creatures. In fact, they’re very aggressive. Case in point: In The Wild Cat Book, authors Fiona and Mel Sunquist recount an anecdote provided by Bill Swanson, the Cincinnati Zoo’s director of animal research. Zookeepers thought that a litter of newborn Pallas's cats were having difficulty breathing, but “when they listened closely, they realized that the noise they were hearing was the kittens growling and hissing at each other—before they had even opened their eyes!"

12. Their mating period is brief.

Pallas’s cats mate between December and March; the females typically give birth between the end of March and May, after a gestation period of 66 to 75 days. Pallas’s cats usually give birth to three or four kittens, but litters can sometimes have as many as eight kittens. Kittens become independent by four to five months, and when they reach nine to 10 months, they’re mature enough to reproduce. 

13. They're classified as "near-threatened."

It's estimated that Pallas's cats can live up to six years in the wild, but because of predators and other dangers, their lifespan is likely to be half this length. In captivity, they’ve been known to survive for nearly 12 years.

In 2002, the International Union for Conservation of Nature classified the Pallas’s cat as “near-threatened,” and that status remains today. Many factors contribute to their low numbers, including farming, agricultural activities, mining, and poisoning campaigns aimed at reducing pika and marmot populations. They're also often killed in traps meant for wolves and foxes, or by domestic dogs. And despite international trading bans and legal protections in some countries, they're often hunted for their fur. (The cat's fat and organs are also used to make traditional medicines.) 

Scientists don't have enough data to estimate the Pallas’s cat's population size, but due to their scarcity and the many threats they face, experts believe that their numbers have dropped by 10 to 15 percent over the past decade or so. To better understand—and protect—the animal, an international team of conservationists recently secured a 12-mile swath of land in Sailyugemsky Nature Park, which lies in the Altai Mountains between Kazakhstan and Mongolia, as a sanctuary for the rare cat. There, they hope to monitor its population, study its habitat, and build a database of information detailing encounters with it. 

Additional Source:
Wild Cats of the World by Luke Hunter

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