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Petwear: The emerging market in the fashion industry

By Ilona Fonteijn


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What do Hunkemöller, H&M, River Island, Primark, Hema and Ralph Lauren all have in common? All these brands have made clothing for dogs. More and more brands are venturing into the market of our loyal four-legged friends, a market that is constantly growing. We recently saw that Boobie Billie, the fashionable Instagram dog, has started a luxury fashion line. Or Dsquared2, which recently launched an entire line of dog clothing and accessories together with Poldo Dog Couture.

In fact, the pet clothing business is so profitable that there are labels making clothing exclusively for dogs and cats. Famous cats such as Karl Lagerfeld’s Choupette, and Jason Wu’s Jinxy and Peaches, prove how animals can play a big role in a person's life. But is it just a phase? Is it bad for the animals? FashionUnited has made an overview of the various approaches to the petwear market.

Beeld: Boobie World website

Dog couture is a must for the time being

The Italian Sighthound-Chihuahua, Boobie Billie, proves that animals are also influential creatures for the fashion industry. The fashion-conscious dog with more than 250,000 followers on Instagram released a luxury clothing line, and this collection is not for his furry friends, but for people. With prices of 270 dollars for a vegan leather mini bag and 80 dollars for a silk scarf, this collection is definitely not for a cat.

At the most recent edition of New York Fashion Week, designer Anthony Rubio presented his couture collection for animals together with his women's collection. The result: a matching couture dress for your dog. The dogs that modelled for this special collection were dogs from a shelter, and four-legged influencers, according to the press release.

Beeld: Anthony Rubio

Dsquared2 also recently launched a dog collection in collaboration with Poldo Dog Couture, WWD reported, "Many people in our company have dogs, we love dogs. With this dog collection we expand our brand," said Dan Caten, co-founder of Dsquared2.

Beeld: Dsquared2 x Poldo Dog Couture

The cat is not forgotten

But let's not forget couture for cats either. The 26-year old stylist Wu Qiuqiao makes a living designing miniature versions of traditional pet dresses, which she sells online for up to 500 yuan (about 60 euros).

Beeld: AFP

Qiuqiao told AFP that she had the idea to design animal clothing after she could not find what she was looking for in the stores. Her dresses seem to meet a real consumer demand: she says she sells up to one thousand pieces per month.

What else is there on the pet fashion market?

But there's much more to fashionable items for quadrupeds, also known as canine couture: the range varies from practical items such as dog raincoats, protective vests, collars and harnesses, to fashion items such as knitted sweaters, hoodies with zippers, sweatshirts, polo shirts and t-shirts, to bizarre dog costumes, bathrobes and onesies. Not to mention designer items like cashmere t-shirts, merino wool sweaters, trench coats and accessories.

Beeld links: Hunkemöller. Beeld rechts: Hema.

Especially the latter is emerging with several brands that focus exclusively on the high-end petwear market. The luxury pet brand Moshiqa from Hollywood, for example, focuses on the rich and famous, as can be seen on their website. Lady Gaga's dog Asia, John Legend's dog Pippa and the eight dogs of Paris Hilton are fans, while celebrities like Anna Wintour, Beyoncé and Ozzy Ozbourne prefer to dress their puppies in items from the pet brand Max-Bone, as seen on the brand's website.

What do animal organisations think of pet clothing?

The animal rights organisation, Peta, emphasises the practical aspect of animal clothing: "When it gets colder outside, some short-haired or small dogs may find it more pleasant to wear a sweater, coat and even shoes to protect them from the icy temperatures. Even then, the comfort and well-being of your animal must come first. Does the clothing fit well, does it reduce freedom of movement? Does your animal look sad in the clothes," the organisation warns.

The National Pet Information Centre (LICG) indicated via email to FashionUnited that in many cases, clothing is not necessary for an animal. Many animals don't like to be dressed at all and only get stress from it, which is detrimental to animal welfare. The communication between animals can also be disturbed by clothing, because the posture is less easily read, think for example of a hood that (partially) covers the ears and eyes of an animal. However, in some cases clothing may be necessary for animals, the LICG reports. There are animals that are not able to keep themselves warm and therefore may need a suitable and comfortable sweater. Protection for the legs is also an exception, in winter the brine that is sprinkled can irritate the soles of an animal's feet, and in summer the asphalt can be too hot. "In short: unless there is a need from an animal welfare point of view, the LICG is not in favour of dressing animals.”

Be that as it may, people’s need to pamper themselves and express themselves through their pets are nowhere more evident than in the need to dress them, increasingly even in matching outfits. The Swedish fashion brand H&M, and the Italian luxury fashion house Moschino, jumped on the bandwagon when they launched their pet clothing line:

Beeld: H&M

H&M also offers a cheaper range of dog clothing including raincoats, coats and sweaters for small dogs, available from six euro. If you want to dress your dog in a Hawaiian shirt, as a bee or Santa Claus, this is the place to go.

Facts and figures

Regardless of anyone's personal opinion, brands and retailers would do well to take note of the growing market for petwear, according to the German online portal Statista. There are already more households with pets than households with children in the United States: 84.6 million households with pets compared to 52.8 million households with children. In Europe, it's pretty much the same story with 80 million households owning at least one pet, an increase of ten million households or 14 percent in 2010.

A study by the Dutch Food Industry Companion Animals and Dibevo shows that in 2019, 48 percent of all households had an animal, of which more than 35.9 percent had a dog and/or cat. According to figures from Statistics Netherlands, in 2019 there were 1.9 million households with children out of a total of 7.9 million households. That would mean that about 24 percent of all households had children, thus, there are more households with pets than with children in the Netherlands.

Those who are still not convinced that the market for pet clothing and accessories is a keeper, should take into account that according to Statista, the market value for pet care in 2019 has reached approximately 26.6 billion euros, and that is only in Western Europe. In the United States, this was a market of 53 billion US dollars (45 billion euros), which is expected to reach 55 billion US dollars (almost 47 billion euros) this year. Our advice? Rather than jumping in, wait and see how things work out.

Main photo credit: Anthony Rubio

This article was previously published on FashionUnited.nl. Translation and editing: Andrea Byrne.