Today’s pets are no longer stay-at-home creatures: They go everywhere! To work, to the hair salon, in and out of neighborhood stores, they hang out (side) at Starbucks and dine al fresco at restaurants. They are included in family functions and enjoy both weekends away and vacations. In fact, some lead an active social life that also includes play dates with same-specie friends.
Consequently, a pet carrier is currently the most essential lifestyle-to-go accessory that any dog, cat, parrot, rat, rabbit and ferret can own. The myriads of styles are designed to make fashion statements as well as being functional. And it goes without saying that today’s party animals own several neatly stacked in the hall closet. It’s simply a matter of selecting the right carrier to suit the occasion.
But when exactly did the functional pet crate become an essential fashion statement?
Gayle Martz, founder and president of Sherpa’s Pet Trading Company is credited with developing the first stylish soft-sided pet carrier, the Sherpa Bag, for use on board airlines back in 1989 and for pioneering the subsequent changes in the travel industry and the out and about lifestyle pets now enjoy.
Martz, a former flight attendant came up with the idea of the Sherpa carrier, named after her Lhasa Apso, when she wanted to take her dog to California from New York. Sherpa had been forced to stay home because she was too small for the cargo hold and not allowed on board. From those early lobbying days, Martz now prides herself in offering retail suppliers and customers the most up-to-date pet-related airline and travel information on the company’s website. She remains an innovative leader in the industry and produces two collections a year.
Since the launch of the original Sherpa bag, the pet luxury goods market has soared to new heights. Subsequently many other designers and entrepreneurs have come on board and collectively elevated the simple pet carrier into a pet status symbol.
Of course pet-toting celebrities who have acquired teacup and various small breed dogs have added their own brand of cachet that has simply ensured this phenomenon isn’t going away anytime soon.
Jody Goldman, owner of Dog and Friends boutique in Orlando, Florida stresses that when it comes to buying a carrier, function is more important than form and questions her customers accordingly.
“Before making suggestions, I need to know whether they are looking for an actual travel bag or a general tote-around bag. Do they want to confine their pet while shopping? Do they want to make a fashion statement? Most importantly, what style of purse are they most comfortable carrying for themselves? Also, must their pet carrier be able to hold their personal items such as cell phone, wallets, make-up etc.”
This all adds up to making the right choice.
Justine Roig of Chiwawa Gaga in New Orleans adds that front carriers and shoulder carriers are extremely popular.
“Personally, I don’t like backpacks because I don’t like the idea of someone messing with my dog where I can’t see it. But of course they are very practical if you are the outdoor adventure type and enjoy hiking and traveling excursions. Bags on wheels are great for arthritic dogs that can’t walk too far,” she adds.
And of course there are also the fabulous pet strollers from Midnight Pass Inc in fashionable colors that include pink, smart navy blue and green.
The price point varies from the economical to figures that could jolt the Richter scale.
“I often recommend customers to start off with something inexpensive especially with a puppy that’s going to chew and pee continually and then graduate to more expensive and fashionable items,” says Roig.
Some of the brand names like Animal Wrappers, PetTote, Ruff Ruff Couture, The World According to Jess, Fox and Hound, Pet Flys and Puchi Bags are as imaginative as the styles competing on the street in this new trend-setting name game.
While there is strong competition in the market place, many of the most popular designs now all have waterproof and removable floor pads, a security leash inside to restrain the pet, interior water bottle holders and devices that allow the carrier to be firmly attached in a car.
Fabrics range from corduroy to lightweight parachute material, silk, pleather, leather and actual luggage grade tear-resistant fabrics. Extra pockets and space for personalized items are also considered pretty standard.
However, leading the field with more than 200 colors, sizes and exceptional designs catering to all animals from cats and dogs, to parrots and ferrets is Angie Yeung of the Brooklyn, New York-based Celltei Company.
Using light-weight luggage grade fabrics or hi tech sailcloth materials laminated with a lay of heavy duty fiber, Yeung has captured the attention of pet lovers with her colorful and innovative ideas which include an air-conditioning compartment where an ice pad or heat pad can be stored to provide a temporary solution for keeping the occupant cool or warm. Other designs have side curtains that provide both privacy and ventilation and allow well-behaved pets to be sneaked into places that are essentially no pet zones.
All the Celltei bags designed specifically as travel bags have a special internal structure which compresses down under the airline seat allowing the pet to have more sideways room without jeopardizing safety and security.
Yeung also custom designs like a special large bag made for a French Bulldog that always travels first class on trans Atlantic flights. The bag has special extension areas that can be unzipped in-flight to allow for more legroom.
“I always take heed of advice passed on to me by customers,” says Yeung. “And I try and incorporate their ideas.”
She is currently having great success with her Celltei Pak-o-Bird that can be carried as a front or back carrier as well as a shoulder carrier. It has a special dense mesh to minimize the possibility of insects entering the bag or the bird pecking through. There are also two D-Rings for hanging bird toys and adjustable perches. Others designs cater specially to small animals like rabbits and ferrets.
Endorsing Roig’s viewpoint, Yeung adds that men love messenger bag styles and backpacks especially if they ride bicycles or scooters.
“These designs strap to the body for the driver to safely reach speeds of 45 mph. Women of course love designs that resemble traditional purses.”
From a fashion standpoint, women tend to buy various styles to compliment their own wardrobe and often buy seasonally.
Puchi Bags, makers of the famous pink glitter bag carried by Reece Witherspoon in the Legally Blonde movies to transport Bruiser, is receiving huge compliments for their wonderful paisley patterns favored by young celebrities like Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie.
“Orange velvet and pink polka dots are also big for fall and winter,” says Puchi’s designer Deann Zampelli.”
Fox and Hound are predicting a run away success with their posh black faux leather croc carrier that typically looks like an elegant uptown purse and can carry a dog or cat weighing up to 15 lbs. This design is part of a range that includes harnesses, leads and matching items of clothing.
While a must-have for any festive occasion is Ruff Ruff Couture’s “Coco Bow” quilted pleather with patent pleather bows and handles. Their other winner is the Super Star carrier available in lilac and silver pleather and also in cobalt and silver. It’s decorated with stars and studded with pearls. More than likely it’s going to be simply irresistible – even to non-pet-owners.
For retailers, the wonderful array of colors, style and carrier designs are easy to accessorize with matching leashes, collars and outfits and make wonderful eye-catching window and in-store displays. With the holiday season coming up, such ready-to-go ensembles will make great gifts for pet fashionistas.
This article is from Pet Product News International