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9:44 PM   November 26, 2014
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Dressing Dogs -- and Helping the Planet

Pet couture designers unite earth friendly materials with fashion.
By Wendy Bedwell-Wilson

This pup is sporting a cotton fiber “Reknitz” sweater from West Paw Design.
This fall, high-style pooches and their owners will be shopping stylish duds that are easy on the eyes -- and the environment, say some of the top dog clothing designers. They’re incorporating organic yarns and fabrics into their patterns and weaving function into fashion.

Customers can’t get enough of it, says Dan Headrick, who co-owns Wag Pet Boutique with his wife, Pam Guthrie, in Raleigh, N.C. 

“Pet owners, by definition, are conscientious,” he says. “This move to an eco-friendly, environmentally responsible product makes a lot of sense to them. They can have it both ways: They can have fun fashions and choose eco-friendly alternatives.”

Good for the Planet
Thanks to the growing availability of alternative yarns and environmentally friendly fabric-manufacturing practices, designers can easily answer the demand for natural clothing, says Lucy Medeiros, owner and designer for Roxy and Lulu Canine Creations in Quebec.

“As we continue to raise awareness in being environmentally friendly, offering eco-friendly fabrics is the way of the future,” Medeiros says. “Designers can offer retailers, and ultimately consumers, all-natural fabrics that haven’t been chemically treated, and have been recycled or made of recycled materials.”

The trend started 10 years ago in the yarn industry, and now it’s trickling into the pet clothing segment, says Sharon Hartnett, owner and designer for Wool and Kashmir in the San Francisco Bay area. Materials range from cotton, bamboo and soy fibers to corn, hemp and milk fibers.


 “As we continue to raise awareness in being environmentally friendly, offering eco-friendly fabrics is the way of the future.”
~  Lucy Medeiros, Roxy and Lulu Canine Creations


“The yarns are getting more beautiful all the time,” Hartnett says. “The process of manufacturing has really improved over the last several years, and they’re getting very luxurious. You can feel some of this yarn, like yarn that’s made with soy byproducts, and it’s wonderful. Or, you get some bamboo, either plain or mixed, with a little silk or alpaca or something, and they’re wonderful.”

From sweaters and coats to dresses and blouses, retailers and pet owners have greater variety from which to choose.

Don’t Forget the Accessories

It’s common knowledge that accessories pull an outfit together. Dog couture is no different.

“Scarves, ties and bows are the most popular accessories for dogs,” says Mustafa Koliva, owner of OoMaLoo with studios in Upland, Calif., Turkey and the United Kingdom. “People like fashion that’s easy to put on -- and keep on -- their pets.”

This season, designers create coordinating looks that pair accessories with outfits, says Lucy Medeiros, owner and designer for Roxy and Lulu Canine Creations in Quebec.

“Novelty items, like hats, scarves, ties, booties and bows, are as fun accessories to perk up your pooches look,” she says. “What will continue to change are the colors, fabrics and patterns to coordinate with the apparel being designed for that current season.”

And don’t forget the jewelry, says Charisa Antigua, chief executive officer for Oscar Newman LLC with offices in Chicago and Austin, Texas.

“Jewelry is another popular accessory that will be hot this year,” she says. “Pearls and Swarovski crystals, with matching pieces for mom and pup, continue to be very popular.”

“Green is good,” Headrick says. “Eco-friendly is cool, and we’re finding that there are a lot of manufacturers and suppliers that are moving into that category and creating a lot of options and product that wasn’t so prevalent several years ago.”

Good for the Pup
The environment isn’t designers’ only concern. They’re also creating functional, affordable pieces that allow dogs to feel comfortable and look fashionable.

“People are looking for things that are practical and useful,” says Michael Becher, director of sales for fab dog Inc. in Lodi, N.J. “If they buy something, they’re going to buy a real great sweater, ski jacket or high-quality item at a great price.”

Designers have focused their skills on jackets, sweaters and hoodies that fit like they should. The cuts and lines contour dogs’ shapes and sizes. 

“We’re continuing to come up with new styles that incorporate that great fit,” says Jaimie Pergament, owner and designer for Ruff Ruff Couture in Beverly Hills, Calif. “I find it jarring when I see a dog dressed and it doesn’t fit them right, or it’s bunching up on their back or shoulders. So whatever shapes or designs we come up with, we try it on different dogs, mannequins and everything so we make sure the fit is correct.”

That makes retailers’ jobs easier, says Liz Sand, co-owner of LuLu & Luigi in Wayzata, Minn. Her customers want items that look good, fit well and serve a purpose.

“We’re looking for quality, well-tailored, good-fitting clothes, like jackets or sweaters, that are affordable and a good price point,” Sand says. “We’re seeing that customers want things that are not only fashionable but also functional. They’re being a little more selective with what they’re looking at and what they’re purchasing.”

Good for the Pet Owner
Of course, fashion is fun, too, and designers continue to create fun outfits that reflect the dogs’ -- and the owners’ -- personalities. This season, retailers can expect a range of themes, from smart and sophisticated to cute and casual, with everything in between.

“Retailers will see structured silhouettes in bright, rich, eye-popping colors,” says Charisa Antigua, chief executive officer for Oscar Newman LLC with offices in Chicago and Austin, Texas. “Coats will use luscious, textured fabrics, especially in different weaves and blends of Italian wools. And Jackie-O inspired three-quarter sleeve jackets and feminine blouses are more sophisticated options for the more dressed-up looks in this fall’s collections.”

Children’s wear-inspired fashions continue to ring the register, and this season is no exception. Sweet treats and whimsical caricatures take center stage on sweaters, while back-to-school styles evoke images of prep school.

“This season, we’re continuing with our [knitwear] collection that features cupcakes and ice cream,” Pergament says. “It’s such a popular genre. And plaid is a really big thing for fall, like a plaid hoodie with a little jean skirt.”

At LaDeDog! in Astoria, Ore., owner Renee Weatherford says her dog dresses and outfits sell well, but there’s one theme that she can’t get enough of.

“We live in Astoria, which is all about ‘The Goonies,’ so anything with skull-and-crossbones sells well,” she says.  <HOME>


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