Fetching designs prove that dogs belong on the catwalk, too
- Last Updated: 7:45 AM, April 29, 2012
- Posted: 7:58 PM, April 28, 2012
In the city that launched “Project Runway,” it’s only fitting that fashion would eventually go to the dogs.
At last week’s Barkinistas Unleashed, the Fashion Institute of Technology’s fourth annual pet-accessories runway show, 14 canines strutted their stuff in designs made by students in the school’s Pet Product Design and Marketing program.
Everything from a dapper puppy raincoat to whimsical doggie capes were sent down the runway, but ultimately Dawn Deisler’s trio of sleek coats, bags and leashes took best in (runway) show.
The looks, which included outfits made from red patent leather, python and neon lamb and suede, were modeled by pups of all sizes, from Puccini, a pint-size Yorkipoo, to Chewee, a massive Leonbeger.
But Deisler’s sartorial inspiration comes from a place closer to home: her own toy schnauzer, Chappy, who, she says, “looks great in red.”
When Deisler, who has worked in the women’s apparel industry for 20 years — most recently at Elie Tahari — first adopted Chappy in 2004, she realized that he needed a way to stay warm in the winter. After trying and failing with mass-produced Velcro-adorned jackets (Chappy hated how the material pulled at his fur; Deisler couldn’t stand the fasteners from an aesthetic standpoint) she made him a coat out of shearling that snapped shut. Walking around their Carroll Gardens neighborhood, passersby would stop and ask where she got it.
Eager to find more ideas for her four-legged friend, she came across the FIT program. She enrolled wanting to learn more about designing for Chappy, but realized there was a void in the market.
“If I don’t like what I’m seeing in stores like Petco, other people are probably settling as well,” says Deisler.
Her strategy for this year’s fashion show was to go heavy on color and trendy brights, plus work in luxe fabrics, such as leather and suede.
“I want to produce a quality product that will last and maintain its value in years to come,” says the designer. “If someone does not want their dog to wear leather [because they find it controversial], there are plenty of other options.”
Still, Deisler is sympathetic to the needs of animals, and plans to donate all of her work’s profits to animal shelters and cancer research — a cause near to heart, since she has lost four cats to the disease.
But mostly, Deisler wants to change attitudes about pet apparel.
“There’s still this stigma about dressing animals; that they don’t need to wear clothing, and should not wear clothing. I understand that a canine’s true need is for food, shelter, medical care, love and affection, but I see how happy Chappy gets when people come up and comment on what he’s wearing. That’s good for him, [too],” she says. “I really believe it.”