Talk about barking up the right tree.
A growing number of top-tier luxury brands and retailers are enjoying a booming business with designer pet accessories, a nascent but growing universe that already spans everything from black marble Saint Laurent dog dishes and striped Thom Browne leashes to minimalist Prada raincoats and Versace dog beds in baroque patterned velvet.
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Since dipping a paw in the pet category at the end of 2019, Ssense has seen sales vault 95 percent in 2021 versus 2020, fueled by Millennials lavishing more money on their dogs, according to Brigitte Chartrand, vice president of women’s wear buying at the Montreal-based e-tailer.
CATTA E CLAUDIA
“Since the onset of the pandemic there has been a large shift toward consumer lifestyle products in general, with more consumers working from home or in hybrid work models,” she explained. “Close to 70 percent of Ssense employees are Millennials and prior to launching in 2019, we also saw firsthand the growing focus that is placed on pets from our pet-friendly offer.”
Chartrand noted that “identifiable branding always performs well across women’s wear and men’s wear, like the Burberry check and Versace prints” and it “translates easily to pet wear and often resonates with shoppers.”
Cue such items as bejeweled Prada dog collars with its telltale triangle logo, dog collars in natural bridle leather and tawny stripes from Hermès, and Marine Serre harnesses in denim printed with her signature crescent moon branding.
The global market for pet products, excluding food, is projected to grow by more than $10 billion between 2020 and 2025, when it is slated to hit $36.89 billion, according to Euromonitor International.
“We see opportunity in the pet accessory category, and continue to evolve the design and communications approach for this vertical,” said Rodrigo Bazan, chief executive officer at Thom Browne, which entered the business for fall 2016 with a large canine offering that included the Hector Browne V-neck sweater, an homage to the designer’s dog and brand muse.
Browne’s widespread use of animal themes — up to and including dachshund-shaped handbags — has translated into a “successful and desirable pet category for our business,” Bazan told WWD. “The harmony of the two has proven season after season to be a growing core of the brand alongside accessories and ready-to-wear.”
Browne sells its full line of pet accessories online, in its boutiques and via specialty retailers around the world.
Like many brands, Dsquared2 entered the category fairly recently, collaborating with Milan-based Poldo Dog Couture on a collection that includes logo hoodies, bomber jackets, vests with brand patches, and raincoats, as well as leashes and bandanas.
“We have seen a real opportunity in this and took it very seriously,” designers Dean and Dan Caten told WWD in an email interview, citing an enthusiastic consumer reaction since the initial launch in September 2020. “With this collection, streetwear becomes comfy, urban and luxury and we were really happy to make our dogs and friends real fashion gurus, launching the second edition of the collection this year.”
The Catens said designer brands bring a new level of quality and style to the pet clothing and accessories market. “The collection items are crafted with resistant and versatile materials, keeping the well-being of the dog wearing them at the center,” they said.
Valentino partnered with pet influencers including Bichon Tori and cat duo Taro + Zippo to get the word out about its Valentino Garavani Rockstud Pet project, introduced in October 2020 with a selection of bags that could be customized with a portrait of any animal by the artist Riccardo Cusimano, with the product line “exceeding expectations,” according to a spokesperson for the Roman fashion house.
Courtesy of Valentino
To meet “the popular demands and needs of pet owners,” the range of Valentino Garavani accessories has grown to include backpacks, travel bags, and tote bags, along with sweaters, hoodies, collars, leashes and pet waste-bag holders, the latter items festooned with metallic studs. Recently the brand created a pop-up in Japan dedicated to pet accessories, and a caravan in the U.S.
“The project will now continue online and in selected boutiques with a wider range of products. We expect a constant increase in turnover linked to these products, in line with the worldwide general market trend,” the Valentino spokesperson said.
Retailers cite healthy consumer interest in pet accessories from famous designer names and luxury houses, as well as specialist pet brands.
Selfridges introduced a small range of pet products last August, and has so far focused on independent, more sustainable brands.
Courtesy of Selfridges
“We are working with smaller businesses such as Lish, Kintails and Cheshire & Wain — all designed and made in the U.K.,” said Eleanor Gregory, home and gifting buyer at the British retailer. “Lish in particular continues to be one of our top-selling brands, with exclusive designs and ranges. We are also increasing our luxury range with a curation of brands.”
Selfridges tested a small range of pet accessories in August 2020 as a response to the increase in pet ownership during lockdown.
“Initially we worked with a handful of brands but sales were strong, peaking in the run-up to Christmas,” Gregory said. “Gifting continues to be the biggest driver for pets, with clothing and toys the best performers. Since last year we have increased our buy by more than 30 percent.”
Chartrand at Ssense cited healthy and growing demand for collars, leashes and pet outerwear. “As we’ve seen in other categories, consumers want to purchase products that offer quality balanced with compelling design details. Whether it is decor-friendly food containers from Boo Oh or extravagant doghouses from Pets So Good, brands are pushing the boundaries with design-forward products,” she said.
In her view, both specialist dog brands and luxury fashion houses have their own turf: the former for more technical products like serving dishes and houses for dogs of various sizes; the latter for allowing pet owners to reflect “their individual style, brand loyalty, and their dog’s personality through clothing and accessories.”
“We always aim to innovate and push our offering across all departments to offer established brands alongside emerging designers, and we took that same approach with Ssense pet wear. Our buyers worked with emerging talent that wasn’t necessarily creating pet wear at the time to commission exclusive collections from 032c, Ashley Williams, Marine Serre, Collina Strada and Stutterheim,” she said.
Chartrand noted that almost 80 percent of Ssense’s audience is between the ages of 18 and 34 years old, “with this demographic increasingly spending more on their pets.”
Italian fashion brand Sunnei, which shows during Milan Fashion Week, is the latest to enter the fray, offering an array of hoodies, T-shirts, and trench coats for dogs, many in bold stripes and all with prominent branding.
The conceit of its campaign is the pet selfie, with a corgi, French bulldog, dachshund and Weimaraner among the breeds caught in the act.
And thanks to Moschino, dogs can now eat out of a ceramic bowl branded as couture.
Last week, Moschino said its creative director Jeremy Scott had taken Moschino classics, including biker jackets, and “reinterpreted them for the stylish pet.”
The Moschino Pets collection spans 14 items of clothing, plus accessories such as collars and leashes, sold on the brand’s website, in Moschino boutiques, and department stores including Selfridges.
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