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Dressing Dogs at Both Ends of the Size Spectrum

Posted: July 27, 2011, 3 p.m., EDT

Popular fashion items run the gamut, from stylish collars and scarves for big canines to tutus for little ones.

By Sandy Robins

When it comes to color trends in the canine fashion world, pink has been popular and perennial. Then, for a while, black was labeled the “new pink.” Now, there’s purple.

“Canine trends always follow a similar color palette to that seen on the human catwalk,” said Lee Ann Litterst, owner of Anything Canine in Laguna Beach, Calif. “But somehow in the past, pink and black still managed to supersede many of the colors ruling the fashion capitals of the world.

“This year is different,” she continued. “The color is purple. And the reason why I think it’s been popular and continues to be strong is because it’s truly unisex, and both tiny dogs and big-boned ones look good in it.”

 Orange is another strong color contender, as it works well with both purple and pink, noted Michael Gallotta, COO for San Francisco-based Luxury Pets.

From trendy colors to tutus to wide price point ranges, much is happening in the category of fashion for little and large canines.

Customers who are enthusiastic about pet fashion tend to come into stores more frequently to see what is new and often buy other items besides fashion-related purchases, industry sources report.
Customers who are enthusiastic about pet fashion tend to come into stores more frequently to see what is new and often buy other items besides fashion-related purchases, industry sources report.
Photo Courtesy of Charlotte Tarantola
Luxury Pets, for example, is working on apparel affordability.

“For this summer, we concentrated on our Red Label line, which makes some of our high-fashion styles in our Dream Collection available at a more modest price point,” Gallotta said. “The idea is to appeal to a more widespread consumer base.”

The company was invited to showcase some of its designs in the Fashion After Bark runway show, presented in April by the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.

“Fortunately, however, people are spending again, and our bundles—jackets with matching leashes and collars from the Dream Collection—that [were] featured on the runway have been very popular,” he said.

Litterst also has noticed more wallets opening. While she admitted that the canine fashion world has borne the brunt of the recession, she said there are definite signs of a high-fashion comeback in the making.

“People are dressing their dogs for occasions again and looking for party dresses and lots of bling,” Litterst said. “Tuxedos are huge for male dogs, and people want them in all sizes. I can’t keep them in stock. The summer is also wedding season, and more dogs are in retinues than ever before.”

This summer might be a good time for retailers to stock certain dress styles, too.

“There’s no question that dresses with spaghetti straps are going to be a popular summer look,” said Jaime Calderbank, owner of the One Lucky Dog boutique in St. Petersburg, Fla. “Both plain colors like yellow and turquoise and bold floral prints.”

At Calderbank’s boutique, most of the canine fashionistas are Yorkies, Chihuahuas, Malteses, pugs and the designer dog breeds, she said.

Although wonderful big dog apparel is available, the canine fashion trendsetters are definitely smaller dogs, said Charisa Antigua, designer and CEO at Oscar Newman in Batavia, Ill.

“Pet parents of bigger dogs generally tend to be more conservative in their styling,” she noted. “Little dogs tend go to more places, and thus their pet parents concentrate on more extensive wardrobes for their pooches.

“And from a designer’s standpoint, we like to be very creative, and small dog apparel allows us to be more imaginative and daring in our designs,” Antigua added. “It’s more acceptable to see a little Yorkie in a bubble skirt than a big Lab.”

At Chicago-based Tails in the City, a boutique with a fashion focus solely on small dogs, co-owner Bruce Haas reported seeing an uptick in the apparel market.

Canine Couture is Alive and Well

Many dog lovers who follow couture trends from fashion capitals such as Paris and Milan are keen to translate those trends into specialized wear for their dogs, noted Brandi Kolosky, publicist and spokesperson for canine couturier Kiki Hamann.

In May, Hamann opened a salon in Coconut Grove, Fla., and was greeted by a demand from customers wanting to bring in their dogs, both big and small, to be measured for custom outfits.

“A dog is very representative of its owner,” Kolosky stated. “Ms. Hamann’s clients like their dogs to have outfits that complement outfits in their own closets.”

Hamann’s customized designs sell for about $800, she added.

“When it comes to designer wear, many people start out with some cute party dress, but then functionality comes in to the picture and items such as a leather coat [are] considered as additions to a pet’s wardrobe,” said Ann Gärdsby, owner and designer at Manfred of Sweden, headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden.

“Our custom-made pieces can cost anything between $2,000 up to $21,000,” she reported. “Last year, black was big for smart wear, but now people are loving earthy colors such as cognac and bronze—colors that are currently popular for evening wear in the human couture world.”

Also staying in line with human fashion trends is designer Charlotte Tarantola of Los Angeles, who uses the same prints on fine-gauge knits for her Charlotte Tarantola for Dogs collection as she uses for her contemporary women’s line.

“The canine cardigans are constructed with the same high-quality yarns and craftsmanship, with added dog-approved components and considerations,” said Ada Williams, Tarantola’s publicist. “The fall collection showcases trendy stripes, dots and checks, along with Charlotte’s signature animal prints and florals. The animal print turtleneck is unisex, an idea which people seem to love.”

When it comes to stylish collars, pet owners are prepared to pay.

“It’s all about lots of embellishments,” said Sharon Romero, owner of and designer for Around the Collar in Holbrook, N.Y. “Dog lovers are prepared to pay for something special. It’s like purchasing a piece of jewelry that’s a keeper.”

“We recently introduced One Lucky Dog Couture to our range and have had a tremendous response to their tutus, in particular the Le Chien Tutu in black and their Sniffany Tutu in turquoise and white,” he said. “The T-shirts, embellished with Swarovski crystals, ribbons [and] appliqués, have also been unbelievably popular. The price point for the tutus starts around $55 and goes up to $85, and we can barely keep up with demand.”

Tutus may not abound in big-dog fashion; however, Calderbank said, lots of bling looks good on any-sized dog.

“We sell a lot of extravagant collars for bigger dogs,” she reported. “I think a lot of owners of bigger dogs consider a stylish collar to be the perfect way to dress a big dog. Comfort is very important. Our customers are constantly making this point when they shop, and, of course, in Florida, canine comfort is heavily related to weather.”

One warm-weather canine fashion item that seems to be ever-enduring is the tank top.

“They are a staple in every fashionable dog’s wardrobe,” said Sharon Bolger, designer and co-founder of I See Spot in Los Angeles. “This season, it’s all about novelty prints and embellishments, and the personality trend continues to be popular. New slogans include ‘Mr. Sexy,’ ‘Kiss Me, Hug Me, Love Me,’ and ‘It’s All About Me Me Me Me’ for the boys, while girls will be donning tanks that say ‘Adorable,’ ‘Little Miss Perfect’ and ‘Glamour Girl’ accented with frills and pink bows.”

Also making a strong statement are scarves with slogans such as “Party Pup” and “Good Dog,” embellished with studs and rhinestones.

“Scarves are proving to be another popular way of dressing big dogs,” Bolger added.

Both retailers and designers reported that a renewed interest in fashion has a positive effect for the pet retail world in general, since customers keen on fashion tend to come into a store more often to see what is new and shop more. Apart from fashion-related purchases, they often buy other items—a plus for any retailer hoping to make both dogs and the bottom line look good. 


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