The face of designer Marc Jacobs’ Instagram-famous bull terrier, Neville, has graced a range of loafers. Valentino named a line of clothing after his pug Oliver. Christian Dior’s favorite pooch Bobby was muse for many of his designs. And Donatella Versace’s Jack Russell terrier Audrey has one-off pieces designed for her. Four-legged friends of the fashion set have long been a source of inspiration for the world’s haute couturiers. And our growing obsession with pampering our dogs, together with the rise of the “petfluencer,” is driving the demand for luxury dog accessories and clothes for our furry companions.
Since the start of the pandemic, sales of pet clothing have soared. In fact, a recent article by ReportLinker predicts the global market for pet clothing will reach more than $40 billion by 2025.
One noteworthy new petwear brand actually launched during the global upheaval of 2020. Founded by lawyer-turned-beauty-influencer Mandy Madden Kelley, Pagerie’s inaugural Sahara collection boasts buff-colored, exquisitely turned accessories made from soft leather treated in the same tannery as the Hermès Birkin bag. Its advertising campaign features coltish women alongside lithe hounds sporting the equestrian-style harnesses, collars, and leashes. The shoot is worthy of a supermodel, and it perfectly positions Pagerie as an “ultra-luxury fashion house.”
Pagerie products come from worshipping the beauty and shape of dogs—the perfect marriage of form, function, style, and fit—Mandy Madden Kelley
“I began to notice a gap in the market from attending fashion events,” says Madden Kelley. “I would see women dressed to the nines in luxury brands, and their dog would be in tow wearing cheap accessories, like a neon leash. There was such a disconnect between the two.”
Behind Pagerie is Hector, Madden Kelley’s own French bulldog muse. “When I see the muscularity of a little Frenchie, or the silkiness of a greyhound, or the elegance of the weimaraner, I’m fascinated by how they sit, lean, and stand. Pagerie products come from worshipping the beauty and shape of dogs. The perfect marriage of form, function, style, and fit.”
Pagerie’s customers don’t shy away from a hefty price tag if it comes with unrivaled quality, from $380 for The Dorro collar to $720 for The Babbi harness. “The Pagerie customer views luxury not as a status symbol, but as a reflection of quality,” says Madden Kelley of her dog accessories. “I wanted to create something timeless you can pass on as an heirloom.”
Behind that quality is rigorous testing in a lab. “All the hardware we use is made out of the purest lead-free stainless steel with the lowest level of contaminants. When tested, there were zero reports of skin irritation or allergic reactions.
“We also lent out samples to friends and family to test on their pets. We wanted to make sure these luxury accessories worked on a short-haired dog like Hector, long-haired canines, and everything in between.”
Pet welfare is at the root of quirky pet lifestyle brand The Painter’s Wife, too. “I’m a specialist in contemporary art and fashion, and my husband is a veterinarian. Our project was born from the union of our talents,” Rosana Alvarez Agrelo says of herself and partner Josep Pintor.
“The knowledge that Josep brings in terms of animal health and welfare is one of our greatest added values.” Indeed, their outerwear artistically addresses a pooch’s practical pain points, from their waterproof raincoats that protect on blustery days, to their jaunty David Hockney-inspired striped cotton T-shirts that shield against the sun.
This is far from faddy, throwaway fashion. “Our new outerwear is produced from recycled polyester obtained through the recycling and purification process of plastic waste collected from oceans, fishing nets, and textile fiber waste,” says Alvarez. “And our cotton wear is made using organic cotton from natural seeds and grown without pesticides or other chemicals.”
Clients want something more personal… You can be more creative without the restrictions of the ready-to-wear market—Lilly Shahravesh
It is a cause close to the heart of Pagerie, too. “I looked all over the world for the best possible vegetable-tanned leather,” says Madden Kelley. “Ours is all biodegradable and environmentally friendly. When I looked at vegan leather, I learned it is made using PVC. Any type of plastic that is in touch with the skin is not healthy for our dogs.”
Responsible sourcing and functionality doesn’t mean sacrificing style. Pet lifestyle emporium Maxbone’s collaboration with designer Christian Cowan produced a pink feather sweater for “the dog who’s just a little bit extra,” while its Disney design features a neon Mickey Mouse hoodie in Keith Haring’s Pop Art style. Maxbone offers everything from freeze-dried pet superfoods to cozy beds, jackets, and carriers, all while supporting global communities.
For something that aligns perfectly to your own particular style, you can, of course, go bespoke. With her emphasis on hand-tailoring, designer Lilly Shahravesh’s LISH London can almost be described as the Savile Row of canine couture.
“I was the first to establish a couture house for dogs in the U.K.,” she says proudly. “More and more clients want something more personal to them. I do a lot of bespoke for the United States. You can be more creative without the restrictions of the ready-to-wear market, where you need to also have accessible products.”
When he’s needed to help out on a photoshoot, Shahravesh’s terrier cross Rabbit gets to model her confections—a coat in her signature Harris Tweed Hoxton Tartan, baker boy hats, and snappy bow ties. He’s in excellent and very stylish company. Pooches belonging to celebrities such as Amal Clooney and photographer Rankin have been seen in LISH, and Shahravesh’s designs have graced the pages of Vogue, Tatler, and Elle.
At a time when one of our only freedoms was walking, the pandemic served to bring us even closer to our pets, and this is the catalyst for the boom in canine couture. The fact that a brand such as Pagerie can launch in one of the most difficult periods for the public and for retail is testament to this.
Madden Kelley sums up our devotion to our pets simply: “I believe that a lot of stress and anxiety in this world can be significantly reduced by getting a dog and taking him for long walks.”
Banner image: Mandy Madden Kelley with her French bulldog Hector, who is wearing a Pagerie leather harness. Image: Jessica Sample, shot exclusively for Christie’s International Real Estate