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Dogs take couture to the catwalk

Ashley Milne-Tyte Aug 17, 2007

Dogs take couture to the catwalk

Ashley Milne-Tyte Aug 17, 2007


KAI RYSSDAL: Pet Fashion Week is set to kick off tomorrow in New York. Strictly speaking, I suppose, it should be called Pet Fashion weekend, since it only lasts two days. It’s a chance for dedicated dog lovers to spend lots and lots of money. This year the event will feature an area grandly called the Luxury Pet Pavilion, dedicated to high-end products from crystal collars to cashmere sweaters. For dogs.

Ashley Milne-Tyte reports fancy doodads for Fido are capturing an ever-larger slice of the $40-billion-a-year market for pet products.

Ashley Milne-Tyte: The after-work rush has set at The Barking Zoo, a pet store in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. One canine visitor is checking out a smaller, daintier customer . . .

The dogs may bring charm to the store, but their owners bring in the bucks. Alan Kraus owns the Barking Zoo. He says over the past several years, owners have been pushing for increasingly specialized products to lavish upon their pets. These days, only about half his revenue comes from the basics, like food and litter. The other half from arguably more frivolous fare.

He delves into a rack of colorful raincoats you could mistake for babywear.

Alan Kraus: Here we have one that kind of zips up the chest of the dog. Has a full-on hood to keep it well protected.

That coat costs $65. Kraus says he sells hundreds a year. Hanging above the raincoats there’s a tiny, pink, polka-dotted sundress to protect the sensitive skin of certain types of Chihuahua and other small breeds.

Anna Allen came into The Barking Zoo with Millosz, her Yorkshire terrier. She says she spends $50 to $75 a month on clothing and grooming items just for him.

Anna Allen: I don’t dress myself the way I dress my dog. I dress him much better. ‘Cause he’s my baby. Millosz, you’re my baby.

Allen says since she doesn’t have kids, she’s happy to spend some of her disposable income on her beloved dog. It’s people like her, often city dwellers who are used to buying the best for themselves, who are driving the market for luxury products.

Charlotte Reed is the marketing director of the Luxury Pet Pavilion. She says the market’s come a long way in 10 years.

Charlotte Reed: We had a few vendors with coats that look like horse blankets. You know, primarily in the same colors as the leashes that we’d find at some of the superstores.

These days, the dog fashion world follows the human one. Larry Roth is the owner of Manhattan dog boutique and grooming parlor Precious Pets.

Larry Roth: I will read Vogue, Elle and Bazaar and see what colors and what patterns and what fabrics are going to be very popular for the coming season.

Then he’ll ask his favorite vendors to design the correspondingly fashionable canine accoutrements. Charlotte Reed points out a gold pleather leash and collar set that sells for 75 bucks.

Reed: It’s got all of the crystals on here, all the Austrian crystals. I mean this is just, this is fabulous. My dog would wear this and he’s a boy.

This isn’t just a New York and L.A. phenomenon. The companies who make the clothes, accessories and even perfume for these pampered pooches are based in Arizona, Illinois and Wisconsin, among other states. Many of them sell their products all over the world.

Alan Kraus, owner of The Barking Zoo designs his own line of pure wool and pure cotton dog sweaters. He’ll exhibit them this weekend at the Luxury Pet Pavilion. He says fancy pet products are no passing fad. And the market is far from maxxed out.

Kraus: Things like dog bowls that have been traditionally either just ceramic or stainless steel, you’ll see that people who design decorative accessories for the home will be moving into that kind of product as well.

Kraus says because so many dogs live to a ripe old age nowadays, there’s lots of potential for products aimed squarely at that demographic. As for the dogs themselves, it’s often the simple things in life that keep them happy.

But owners can rest assured they’ll be able to coddle their canine companions with more exclusive fare for years to come.

In New York, I’m Ashley Milne-Tyte for Marketplace.

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