Inside the world of canine couture

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From ruling the runway at Fashion Week to strutting the streets of Milan in designer gear, the world of canine couture is all things luxurious, glamorous and ridiculously over the top.

Celebrities such as Paris Hilton, Priyanka Chopra and Lady Gaga have made having a pet tucked under one arm – or more famously, peeking out from a Moshiqa bag – the epitome of trendy.

As such, the market for pet fashion has seen a boom, especially among the young and affluent. In an article by Forbes, it was revealed that there are now more pet-owning households than those with children.

Data from Statista shows that there are 84.6 million pet-owning households compared to 52.8 million with children.

From drinking bowls to collars, beds and toys, all adorned with designer logos, some of the biggest names in fashion including Burberry, Louis Vuitton and Ralph Lauren have been churning out products to keep dogs across the globe pampered with the best wardrobes and accessories available. But it doesn’t stop there, what’s becoming increasingly popular is couture – for dogs.

New York based designer Anthony Rubio spent 20 years of his career dedicating his expertise to creating innovative and creative techniques within the womenswear industry. But in 2003 he unexpectedly made a huge career change, spurred by the adoption of a rescued chihuahua.

Wanting only to dress his new pet, Bandit, in stylish attire, the concept for his new range of luxury garments for dogs was born. With so many celebrities and A-listers consumed with giving their pooches the best that life has to offer, he soon became renowned for being a master pet couturier.

At his fashion shows, towering models in glitzy ensembles walk the with dogs of all breeds, both wearing often bold and daring designs.

Judging by his Los Angeles Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2020 collection, it is evident that ornate beading, jewels and floral embellishments define his signature look. And that the people accompanying each posh pooch are merely an accessory.

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His website boasts three tabs dedicated to canine couture: Male Dog Fashion, Female Dog Fashion and Pet Costumes. The outfits range from gowns with trains that trail past the tail to sequinned waistcoats, sparkling rhinestone-studded top hats and more laid-back looks like beach-chic button-downs from his line of resort wear.

Each design featured on his site is modelled by a “petfluencer”. The adorable Norbert, a registered therapy dog and volunteer at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, hit the runway in a silver-and-pink getup while Instagram-famous Lala the Pomeranian posed for the website in a shimmery teal mermaid-esque gown.

Home to major brands, Milan is one of the world’s most fashionable cities so it’s no surprise that the pooches across the Atlantic dress just as chic. Having designed for the likes of Armani, Bottega Veneta and Max Mara, Giovanna Temellini is the woman behind the city’s fashion house for dogs.

Temellini’s venture into canine couture began when her young daughter called, worried about their dog. “Mummy,” she said, “Whenever it rains, Willy is shaking his head because the water goes in his ears.”

Being a huge lover of dogs and an animal-welfare activist, she, of course, decided to create a hooded coat to protect Willy’s pointed ears from irritation on future walks. Always one to make a statement, the coat was made to match her daughter’s winter jacket, thus marking her first-ever piece of canine couture and the start of Dog-a-Porter.

The news spread to the elite dog owners of Milan who couldn’t wait to nab one of Dog-a-Porter’s designs. The business began with strictly made-to-measure garments, with clients bringing their pets for fittings during which they shared briefs on what they were looking for. Temellini now has a boutique nestled among the streets of the trendy Brera neighbourhood. It’s rails are stocked with womenswear and canine creations. If you happened to pass by the store’s front window, you’d see stunning outfits styled on doggy mannequins.

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Her products can be described as elegant, chic and with an innate class that caters not only to our four-legged friends, but their families too. Raincoats, knits, sweaters, jackets and bombers, on her website she has a selection of ready-to-wear outfits for every occasion. The pricing starts from around R2 000 for smaller breeds up to R12 300 for large breeds.

In South Africa, we’ve yet to catch on to this trend to the same extent. However, there are a selection of stores and websites offering plush puppies the finer things in life.

Kingsley & Gray is an online boutique providing couture accessories for unique dogs that compliment their owner’s style and sophistication. Their aim is to offer pets exclusivity, luxury, individualism and Earth-conscious products, delivered to your door wherever you are in the world.

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Their website makes it clear that they only use the best materials, which they buy in limited amounts for each design. They prefer to keep options fresh for their customers and therefore each design should be considered limited. Once it has sold out they bring in new options.

This ensures that they stay on-trend with colours and prints and afford customers the opportunity to build on their K&G Wardrobe with different accessories for their dogs.

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