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Mutts and Divas

Fashion models wearing haute couture and their canine counterparts sporting the latest haute dog trends strutted the runway together at a recent fashion show in Orlando, Florida bringing a well-heeled audience to its feet and begging for more.

 

The Mutts and Divas fashion show was the brainchild of Jody Goldman, owner of the hugely popular Dog and Friends pet store in the College Park district of downtown Orlando. Goldman was the recipient of the Pet Product News Retailer of the Year: Best Newcomer Award for 2004. It was her customer service and novel marketing ideas that won her the coveted honor and this fashion presentation only endorsed her innovative abilities.

The event was a joint effort with her store neighbor Grace Mendoza, owner of the Modern Grace Boutique that specializes in haute couture wear featuring well-known names like Vera Wang, Gucci, Manolo Blahnik and Betsy Johnson. The presentation also marked the debut for canine couturier Kara Kono’s colorful and outrageous Love Furever Spring collection for dogs.

Goldman and Mendoza were able to cordon off a large section of the parking lot adjacent to their stores and set about co-coordinating a stylish, catered occasion complete with a plush red carpet runway for the glamorous models and their furry partners. There was a cash bar and canapés for the pet parents and a doggy caterer on hand serving canine penne pasta, risotto and chilled water.

The models were professionals and their canine counterparts all well behaved doggy fashionistas and loyal customers of Dog and Friends.

“Once we had selected the outfits for the show, we got the dogs and the models together so that they could get to know each other,” explained Goldman. “We went to great lengths to ensure the models were paired correctly with the appropriate dog. After all, a six- foot tall girl walking a two-pound Chihuahua would look ridiculous. We also had to take the dogs’ personalities and temperaments into account to ensure there would be no hitches on the big night.”

It was, by all accounts, a howling success.

“You know the old Hollywood dictum ‘never work with children and dogs,’ well the dogs definitely held the spotlight,” said Peggy Djerdj of Orlando, Florida a long-time customer of Dog and Friends who attended the show.“ Some dogs are born hams and these pups knew how to strut their stuff. They were terrific.”

To pulsating lights and musical repertoire that included songs like Who Let the Dogs Out and Putting on the Ritz, the canine models had the audience drooling over Kara Kono’s seersucker ruched casual wear and party dresses featuring net skirts with a chiffon overlay and decorated with beads and crystals.

Of course there was lots of puppy bling bling in the form of hair grips, collars and matching leashes and jewelry including strings of pearls and rhinestones.

Another loyal Orlando customer Heidi Sondi admitted she was extremely jealous that none of the quirky canine fashions came in extra large sizes.

“I have three Great Danes and I would love to dress them. I guess I will have to make do with fun bandanas.”

Goldman confirms that really interesting canine fashion seems to gravitate to the petite and teacup breeds. “But there are lots of fun T-shirts for the bigger boned with cute slogans like ‘Does this shirt make me look fat?’ and ‘The cat did it, I swear!’”

Apart from being a wonderful social whirl, the event raised money for Canine Companions for Independence and has been great for business.

“People were buying madly after the show”, says Goldman. “And the spin-off is still spinning. It’s been really great and I plan to do it again next year.”

It’s a literal rag to riches story for Kara Kono, who is still a student studying TV and film in Florida. When she couldn’t find anything stylish for her miniature Pomeranian pup, Rizzo, she bought a sewing machine and decided to design clothes especially for her.

“I want my dog to dress like me. She should be able to wear the latest colors and trends too.”

The line has been such a success that the 23-year-old upstart designer hired a publicist and jetted off to Hollywood soon after the Orlando event to dress celebrity pets as well as dogs in up-coming movies.

 

For retailers who would like to hold similar events, Jody Goldman advises to following:

•  Hold the event on private property which eliminates the time and expense of applying for a city permit and additional insurance.

•  Only work with professionals when it comes to lights, music and stage set-up.

•  Employ professional models, hair and make-up artists.

•  Invite dogs that are loyal customers of your store to model. Pet owners will be flattered and it’s great for publicity.

•  Invite the press well in advance.