Once upon a time the world of fashion was ruled by talented designers who understood form and fabric and the fact that clothes maketh the man. From their lofty ateliers in Paris and Milan, New York and London, they decreed what was considered to be haute and what was not.
Now, emerging from very different studios, ones relating to the world of television, movies and music, emerges a new breed of designer ready to use personal celebrity to make their mark on just about everything that sells from clothes and jewelry to lingerie and luggage. And their influence is also heavily impacting on the pet market as they rush to put their personal stamp on doggy T-shirts, jewelry, collars, leashes, toys, food bowls and beds.
Yes. Licensing is the new buzzword forcing entertainment lawyers and agents to brush up their knowledge of merchandising laws. Business analysts at Harris Nesbitt, the Chicago based financial management consulting organization say that what the pet industry is currently experiencing is only the tip of the iceberg. Ex-Playboy playmate Pamela Anderson, airhead heiress Paris Hilton, music mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs and hip hop artist and movie star Snoop Dogg head a growing list of superstars who have added the word “designer” to their resumes and have set about launching their own taste on a starstruck public insatiable to have and to own things that represent these icons.
Pets are definitely getting their fair share of this celebrity spin-off. More than 80 per cent of American pet owners consider themselves to be pet parents and in an attempt compliment their pet’s lifestyle with their own, are quite happy to indulge in star-studded items for their fur kids. Further, this whole pet celebrity hoopla is being fueling by the fact that more famous faces are taking their pets with them wherever they go: Britney Spears takes her Chihuahua Bit Bit to the hair salon. Adam Sandler takes his Bulldog Matzoh Ball to his film production offices. Some pets even make appearances in movies and TV shows along with their owners. Hilton’s Tinkerbell starred in the reality show The Simple Life while Spelling’s pug Mimi Larue shadows Spelling in her latest hit reality TV show So Notorious. Consequently they are becoming superstars in their own right.
“For Paris Hilton, and Tori Spelling, their dogs are their sidekicks,” says pet clothing designer Lara Alameddine, of Little Lily Inc in Los Angeles California. “They are as famous for including their pets in everything they do as they are for the projects they are involved with. So these celebrity pets have a huge following.” Alameddine designed all the outfits Spelling’s Pug Mimi Larue wears in So Notorious. “When we design for Tori and Mimi we know that we always have to take it to the next level. These girls have a fine eye for fashion. We don’t make dog clothes; we make people clothes for dogs. After each episode airs, I get tons of emails from retailers and members of the public requesting to purchase the dog’s outfits. People simply have to have them. These pups are simply an extension of the celebrity culture.”
TV actress Crystal Hunt had a very successful run as Lizzie Spaulding in the TV soapie Guiding Light along with her canine co-star her Roxie. “Roxie never wore the same outfit twice,” recalls Hunt. “ Fans were always writing in asking how they could get the outfits she was wearing.” When she left the show, Hunt decided to launch the Roxie line of canine couture, and admits being a TV star certainly helped with publicity.
Now there’s talk that Spelling is considering climbing on the bandwagon of her pet’s success with plans to launch her own range of pet clothes and wares. Insiders say there is a deal pending but her publicists are tight-lipped. On the other hand, hip hop artist and movie star Snoop Dogg is only too happy to endorse his new pet line. His Snoop-inspired T-shirts and coats certainly reflect his personality and his penchant for purple.
“Snoop Dogg’s love goes beyond people – It’s for all living creatures throughout the universe,” says the superstar. “How can I be Snoop Dogg and not show my love for pets?” “Snoop Dogg is known around the world for his quintessential sense of urban style,” says Debbie Dunn, Senior Licensing Manager at JAKKS Pacific, Inc. in Malibu, California who owns the Dogg license. “ Our goal is to offer a line of pet products for larger dogs with “attitude” that is off the hizzle fo’ rizzle! The line will include everything from toys to food bowls to faux fur couture and will have lots of Bling.”
According to Robert Festej of Chrome Bones in Los Angeles, California, who holds the license to manufacture and sell Pamela Anderson’s pink-inspired collars and leashes and other wares, the glamorous star actually does come into the office to discuss the line. “We give our in-put and so does she and we meet halfway. There’s no question it sells well because of the celebrity link.” Festej, who also holds the license to put the Playboy Bunny logo on pet products, adds. “Our plan is to acquire more celebrity licenses in time.”
It seems that the celebrity-endorsed pet trend doesn’t stop with living icons but extends posthumously to the likes of Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe too. “She’s the epitome of the blonde bombshell, one of the greatest Hollywood legends of all time,” says Heather Caraballo, President of The Pink Hotdog, LLC. in Riverdale, New Jersey. Caraballo holds the worldwide rights to replicate the movie stars legendary gowns scaled down to the ultimate in canine couture.
“ I see my Marilyn Monroe inspired clothes line for dogs to be the ultimate tribute to her. We launched six of her most famous dresses that people can easily identify with her movies like the white Seven Year Itch dress and the pink satin Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend dress. I have replicated the fabrics, the same stitching and Marilyn’s actual signature is on the label. Even 40 years after Monroe’s death, she has a huge following and everyone recognizes the outfits instantly. They are part of the legend and the mystique that is Marilyn Monroe. “Her famous sweaters will be next and then I hope to do carriers,” adds Caraballo who is also happy to custom make for bigger dogs. For a celebrity crazed public to put their pets in celebrity designer wear and top it off with a piece of doggy jewelry designed by Paris Hilton is just another way to spoil their pets.
For the celebrities behind the name tags, it’s really just another very clever marketing ploy and quest for never-ending publicity — even if they really do love animals. The trend is here to stay and it’s just going to get bigger. As for the original fashion kings and queens – those that once upon a time ruled the fashion industry and dictated looks, colors and trends, well, they are making no bones about fighting back. From Puchi to Gucci to Fendi and Prada, pet wares are beginning to emerge. For retailers caught in the middle of this fashionable dogfight, all it means is more money in the bank.