While dog clothes
, accessories and pet fashions in general have really taken off in recent times, with even Domestic Diva Martha Stewart
getting on the canine couture bandwagon, dressing up doggies is nothing new.
Here is some interesting info about how dog clothes have evolved through the years and an exploration of how the industry has grown, along with interviews with two top canine designers.
A Dog Clothes History Lesson
According to a report from Pet Product News International
, historians claim that pooches have been putting on the dog for millennia. In fact, archaeologists have unearthed dog collars, many elaborate and bejeweled, from as far back as 3100 B.C. and before.
In early 1800s Britain, then-Princess Victoria’s beloved spaniel, Dash, became known as quite the poochie fashion plate when his majestic mistress took to dressing him in finely tailored jackets and pants.
And although many believe that pet boutiques are a new phenomenon, the industry actually got its start in the 19th century in perennially fashionable Paris, with specialty pet shops carrying everything from doggie raincoats to under garments and beachwear!
Meanwhile, the dog clothes and pet fashion industry continue to grow unabated. Interestingly, it is proving to be a recession-proof
industry, as pet parents continue to spend big bucks on what many may consider unnecessary luxury items.
I spoke with two successful dog clothes designers, Patti Wilson of New England-based Joy Pet Products
, whose Internet-based company specializes in high-quality goose down coats for dogs, and Michelle Cleek O'Hollaren of Illinois, whose Internet company, Sophisticated Pup
, specializes in a variety of high-fashion doggie designs about the continued fascination with canine fashion.
How These Dog Clothes Designers Got Started
Neither of these canine couturiers deliberately intended to get into this business. Patti, who has a background in the performing arts, and Michelle, who’s an artist, simply enjoyed making clothes for their own dogs. Then other pet parents began to admire their doggies’ duds and asked where they could get these for their own pets.
“People wanted the coats,” Patti said. “I never intended for this to become a business.”
“I had never been involved in fashion before,” Michelle added. “But when I got Penny (her Pug
, muse and favored model), I wanted to buy her clothes. Then I realized that I could make the things I saw out there so much better.”
Why Dogs Need Clothes
A lot of people think that dressing dogs is ridiculous. But as Patti pointed out, there are many practical reasons for canine clothes.
“Not every dog needs a coat,” she said. “That seems like anti- marketing
, but they don’t. But most animals are accustomed to the same conditions as we are, and they do need protective clothing. The great thing about goose down is that it’s warm, but doesn’t overheat. Our products also cover the pets’ heads, unlike most, which helps with other issues.”
With Dog Clothes, Quality Never Goes Out of Style
While Patti has been in the dog clothes business longer than Michelle, both of these Fido fashionistas agree that high-quality fabrics and designs are of the utmost importance. They also only use materials made in America and, in Patti’s case, Canada. As such, their doggie garments are quite pricey. Patti’s canine coats start at $79.99, while Michelle’s doggie party dresses start at $69.99.
But you do get what you pay for and people are willing to spring for quality, even in these trying economic times.
“It’s now universally accepted that animals are part of the family,” Patti explained. “The pet products industry has had continued growth. It’s also becoming a crowded market. Consumers have become more selective about the products they buy for their pets, so they do look for quality because there is so much made in China stuff now.”
That philosophy appears to have paid off in that Patti’s company is very successful, and Michelle (or, I should say, Penny the pug) won the Best Dressed Dog Competition at the 2011 H.H. Backer
Christmas Trade Show. Penny was even featured on the cover of the December 2011 edition of Pet Age
magazine, in a fetching peacock ensemble.
Michelle also has come up with clever ways to promote
her business, via arranging home parties
that are similar to candle and jewelry parties. She also makes it a point to send birthday greetings
to her critter customers.
Patti, meanwhile, continually keeps her website
updated and fresh.
Both donate a portion of their proceeds to charity. Patti donates the cost of the fabric for her Joy - Spread it Around dog hoodies to animal charities; Michelle has donated proceeds from her Collection for a Cause doggie T-shirts to the Susan G. Komen breast cancer foundation.
“Charities are suffering now because of the economy,” Patti said. “This spreads the message and creates awareness. So many more animals get adopted as a result.”
Get Set for Some Posh Pups!
And now, the moment you have all been waiting for…a divine doggie fashion show!
Just click on the numbered links above or below to enjoy some pulchritudinous pups modeling some of the latest in poochie fashions.
For more about the pet fashion industry, please see my articles roundup For Pets With a Passion for Fashion.