Canine Couture

From Tinkerbell’s Simple Life wardrobe to New York’s Pet Fashion Week, canine couture is challenging runway displays from Los Angeles to Paris. Human fashion pales in comparison with the riotous colour, vivid styling, and total fantasy of the fashions offered for our dogs.

But is your pooch’s fashion style up to scratch or is there a sniff of ‘last year’ about her couture? Would Fifi’s to-die-for New York fashion style be a bit, well – not to be dogmatic about it – boring in glitzy, glamorous L.A.? Can the “shop-til-your-paws- hurt” doggie diva really find wearable satisfaction in North America or does the London hound’s classic look still lead the pack?

Your own Private Ear ‘Tective (PET) investigates the trends in Canada and the U.S., looks at European style, takes a Peke –  oops, sorry – peek preview at autumn ’06, and has a quick sniff at the Japanese exotics (Memoirs of a Geisha, anyone?).

The “mutt’s have” looks for autumn
Knowing how to dress your dog in the latest style means looking first to the general fashion trends for humans, say several designers.

“People select fashions for their fur-babies in similar colours and fabrics to the choices they make for themselves each season,” says Sara Cirelli from Calypso’s Choice. One doggie couture house, Pink Polka Dog, even features on its website catwalk clips of the people-wear that inspired particular creations.

That being said, autumn “exudes attitude and personality—mixed t-shirts, appliqué, skulls and crosses, Gothic fashion for dogs,” according to Janet McCulley of Muttropolis.

Shirley Chan of Beanies & Belvedere looks forward to “lots of denim, camouflage prints, hand-knit sweaters, and embellishments on most everything!” Some pieces, such as t-shirts and jackets, are showing a hip-hop influence: darker in colour with simpler designs.

Those who enjoy putting on the Ritz won’t be disappointed, either. Says Deborah Idzi at Glitzy Pet Jewelry (a U.S. pet jewelry design house that donated swag to the goodie bags at the Night of 100 Stars Oscar Gala): “Fur and velvet will be very big. Fabrics in rich deep colours with unique details like textured collars, cuffs, and linings, as well as glittering embellishments.”

At Pink Polka Dog, the keyword is “hip” with inspiration ranging from Twiggy and the 1960’s, resulting in a Marc Jacobs-ish large-button cardigan, to demure Victoriana.

Hoodies are the hottest piece for fall. “Nothing barks ‘style’ louder than a pink velour hoodie,” says Pupstyle’s Dara Foster. Handmade in the U.S., their hoodie comes complete with Bulldog patch on the back – ”perfect for today’s discerning urban hipster hound.” Wagwear is featuring cotton surfer hoodies for that fall beach getaway – or a stroll downtown on a crisp day.

Wardrobe essentials
On the more practical side of doggie fashion, t-shirts continue to dominate the market.

At Chi Wow Wow, cool canines can pick up one-of-a-kind tees – as well as jackets and sweaters – fashioned from vintage and recycled clothing. Each design is unique, an important consideration for the pooch who dreads seeing his favorite sweater on the prissy Pomeranian across the street.

Lightweight sweatshirts are also popular at Pupstyle, since, as Foster says: “Every small dog needs a comfy, cozy shirt (or several!) for just hanging out in!”

In some cases, fashion is paired with functionality and a jacket or coat may double as a collar or harness.


The most ‘bling’ for the bark
Your dog knows what she wants – her sense of style is unerring. But in which fashion centre should she spend her valuable shopping time? East coast vs west coast; Europe vs America – what’s a girl to do?

Pupstyle’s Foster thinks New York City and Los Angeles are the places to be. “[They are] the two major cities producing the most creative and distinctly different styles in dog fashion.” Each coast has its own distinct flavour that screams ‘L.A.’ or ‘N.Y.,’” she says. Most would agree that the east coast is a bit more sophisticated and gritty, with faster seasonal design changes than the west coast.
“In Los Angeles, the styles are seen as more relaxed – beach and street wear, or gothic/rock ‘n’ roll and vintage-inspired aesthetic,” says Foster. “They’re also a bit more ‘showy’ than their east coast counterparts.” Idzi also sees more ‘sparkle’ in Los Angeles. “There’s more rhinestone, because there’s more glamour in L.A. There’s less glamour in New York, where the Burberry collar and tweed collars offer a classier look,” she says.

In Canada, ‘posher’ humans and canines are found in Toronto, but Vancouver’s milder weather offers more opportunities for dogs to dress up. “Vancouver canine fashion is influenced by the proximity to California and the influence from the whole Hollywood celebrity dog trends,” says Chan at Beanies & Belvedere.

Trend setters emerge from Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco, says McCulley, “Perhaps because they socialize more with their dogs in tow.” She sees similarities with Europe, where “the French bring their dogs everywhere – dry cleaners, bakeries.”

And yes, London and Paris are still the places for high-end timeless designs in classic colours from big companies like Burberry and Goyard.

Asia is starting to offer some exciting alternatives for couture hounds. Your romantically inclined lady dog will be a vision on her special day in a lacy white wedding gown, complete with veil, from Nahomilly. For the groom, there’s a blue satin tux.

If your Japanese Chin is a traditionalist, she’ll need one of this boutique’s exquisite kimonos, perhaps an all-red coming- of-age style or one in pink for the summer. Even the boys can get in on this one, with a rugged yet classy man-styled kimono.

Pink Polka Dog and Puppia World, both based in Japan, offer everything from dresses to jackets, as well as the accessories to carry off the latest look.

Whatever Fifi’s style, you and she can indeed aspire to be a cutting-edge fashionista couple. If you already shop-hop in Paris, London, and L.A., then simply pack your pooch along for the ride, and buy for two. But even if you’re confined to just one country (and your Yorkie doesn’t like to fly – even for the latest bling collar) you can still lead the fashion pack. ■

First published in Modern Dog magazine

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