At one time, it was considered taboo or even silly to see a prissy Pomeranian donned in a miniskirt, a spunky Shih Tzu in a hand-knitted sweater or a tiny toy fox terrier outfitted in top hat and bowtie. But nowadays, the sight of pets dressed just as snazzy as their owners has become common. Over the past few years, major upscale fashion brands like Louis Vuitton and Gucci have added pet accessories to their lines. And out of nowhere there have been quite a few brands to spring up catering solely to the well-dressed dog.
“Years ago, you could see a dog in a sweater and people would think you’re crazy. But nowadays, it’s so common,” says Karmina O’Connor, co-founder of Chicago-based dog clothing design company Oscar Newman which offers upscale luxury hand-beaded sweaters. “A lot of times dogs need clothing- especially short-haired dogs. When it’s cold, they shiver. It’s functional as well. Some things are fun like dresses. Clothes are an extension of the owner’s personality.”
In the dog clothing business for five years, Oscar Newman sells clothing around the world. Sweaters retail at $60; coats are $75- $100, and they also carry jewelry. O’Connor, her sister and a third partner started the company as a way to dress their own dogs. She has three Chihuahuas.
“Our dogs are little divas, so we figured they would like bling because we do too,” informs O’Connor. “We thought we’d do something different.”
Since their beginnings, O’Connor says she has seen the industry blossom. Retailers like Target, Wal-Mart and Old Navy are selling dog clothing.
“Clothing is normal and natural for dogs,” says O’Connor. “I think the more mainstream it becomes, it’s better for everybody… The clothing industry is so competitive. When we came out five years ago, there was nobody else doing it.”
Indeed, just as the styles of dog owners vary so do dog clothing companies. Santa Ana, Calif.-based Rockin’ Doggie styles pups in sterling silver identification tags, 14 karat pendants and Brazilian leather leashes. Seattle-based Idawg carries a line of rugged vests for bigger breeds. And Accessories House Inc. carries upscale clothing, toys and the most comfortable line of plush dog beds.