Updating the Playboy Bunny: Cavalli Designs New Costume

Roberto Cavalli has been tapped by Playboy Enterprises to design new bunny costumes.

MILAN — “Well-dressed” aren’t exactly the first words that come to mind when discussing a Playboy bunny.

But that may be poised to change following a deal between Roberto Cavalli and Playboy Enterprises Inc. for Cavalli to redesign the iconic bunny costume.

It will be the first update of the outfit in more than 25 years, and the first association between a fashion designer and Playboy, which has been trying to up its fashion quotient with a line of trendy apparel and freestanding stores.

And Playboy might tap Cavalli’s taste for more than just clothes. The designer is likely to create a concept for the interiors of the new Playboy Club at the Palms Casino Resort, scheduled to open in Las Vegas in early 2006. The new tower of the resort will include a boutique casino and lounge, a nightclub, a store and a two-story Hugh Hefner sky villa.

Cavalli, surrounded in his Just Cavalli store here by six bunnies flown in from Los Angeles by Playboy Enterprises, announced the project on Wednesday during Men’s Fashion Week. The bunnies were slated to make an appearance at the Roberto Cavalli presentation Wednesday evening, which was all too fitting — the designer said his latest men’s collection was inspired by a Sixties Italian playboy.

“I enjoyed the idea of toying with such a classic iconography and ironic reference to femininity,” said Cavalli of the linkup with Playboy. “I’ll keep the tail, but it might be animalier or spotted,” said the designer, still in the early design phases.

“The bunny costume has undergone only modest changes over the years, so as to maintain its identity and special character,” said Christie Hefner, Playboy’s chairman and chief executive officer, in a statement.

“Roberto Cavalli is the perfect designer to reinterpret the magic of original design as he, too, embraces the good life, inspires an aspirational lifestyle for a jet-set crowd and, of course, celebrates beautiful women.”

The costume may have spurred both feminist ire and male fantasies, but it’s actually a service uniform registered by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. It was introduced with the first Playboy Club in Chicago in 1960: a one-piece swimsuit, collar, cuffs, rabbit ears and cottontail. A rosette with the bunny’s name was added later.

This story first appeared in the June 30, 2005 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The costume is displayed in the permanent collections of both the Chicago Historical Society and The Smithsonian.