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Fashion is function when dressing your pets

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Think fashionistas only come in human form?  Think again.  Pets around the world are donning the latest and trendiest styles, courtesy of their pet-loving parents and a burgeoning pet fashion industry.

Imagine that the lights go dim and the music hums. The crowd buzzes as the pet models make their way down the runway, showcasing baby doll dresses and dogs dressed to the nines (think pomeranian in a green silk cape).

At least that's how it went this past January at the New Year Dog Party in Tokyo, where some 18 pet fashion designers gathered to present their pet "demi-couture'' collections, proving, like other shows from Japan to New York City and London, that fashion isn't just for humans anymore.

Nobody knows that more than Carol Cusamano, a veteran designer who, after 20 years in the women's fashion industry, founded the New York City-based Cloak & Dawggie in 2003. It specializes in high-end original sportswear and accessories for pets and their partners.

Since then, she's become expert at spotting the trends in terms of what's hot and what's not for dressing your dog. This year's predictions? "While it'll always be fashionable to have a well-dressed dog, the majority of people aren't buying their animals runway couture anymore,'' she said. "Instead they're looking for something more practical.''

Utilitarian is the new black

According to Cusamano, today's pets owners want attractive utilitarian products. "Like a great harness, coat, or travel bag,'' she said, "instead of the gold-lame dress they may have found spectacular five years ago.''

Pet owners are also looking for traditional products with a twist, loosely inspired by trends in human fashion, like retractable leashes in contemporary colors, or pet collars and totes in modern-day trims and fabrics.

For example, Cusamano added a metallic harness to her collection because metallics are big in general. "But at the end of the day,'' she said, "it's still just a harness.''

Pink, big dogs, and bling are in

Still, all is not lost for diehard owners who insist their dogs never leave the house in anything less than dazzling. There are a handful of pet fashion boutiques setting trends and providing options. And this year, Cusamano said, that includes:

  • Anything in pink. It's been the No. 1 fashion color in the pet industry for years, followed by red and then brown.
  • Travel bags. Pet travel is on the upswing.
  • Products for big dogs. Bigger dogs have typically gotten the short shrift. But not anymore, as fashions include nice collars and rain slickers in patent leather.
  • Bling. Along with vintage, bling is always in.
  • Faux fur. Especially if it's purple or hot pink.
  • All things crocodile and textured leather. Think coats, leashes, collars, and trims.
  • Camouflage. "As long as we're at war,'' she said, "camouflage will still be relevant.''

Pet fashion as a novelty

Finally, for those who insist their dogs go designer, Burberry (raincoats), Ralph Lauren (sweaters), and Coach (collars and leashes) offer a few basic staples. Juicy Couture is also stepping it up, with lots of options in terms of doggie tee-shirts, sweaters, and parkas.

And yet, no matter what the trends - or most flattering for your dog - experts agree that pet fashion will continue to grow and change as an industry. This year, it may be function over form. But next year, well, Cusamano and others agree: stay tuned. It could very well revert back to the ball gown.

Credit: Reviewed by Amy I. Attas, V.M.D.
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