One of the best parts of chillier weather? The occasion to dress your dachshund up in adorable jackets and sweaters. As we head towards fall, it seemed only appropriate to add a stylish denim piece to the mix for your doxie to rock on dog walks around the neighborhood and on puppy playdates at the dog park.
We worked with designer Chrissie Dowler to design a denim vest that had enough personality to showcase your pup’s, and below, she gives us a look at the care and creativity that went into designing a denim jacket fit for your doxie (literally).
How did you get into the design world?
I studied fashion design at FIT in New York City, and then worked in the industry for about 25 years, for brands like Tommy Hilfiger, Liz Claiborne, Victoria’s Secret, and Henry Bendel. Even before COVID, retail had shifted, and fashion has become a harder industry than it was when I first started out. So about three years ago, I started my own company — Pied Beauty Studios — and I’ll work on everything from prototypes and patterns to larger design concepts and production.
How does designing clothes for pets compare to designing for people?
I think about pet apparel in a similar way to how I’d think about kids' clothes. If you think about who’s doing the shopping, it’s always the parent — the human — so I keep in mind what they are looking for and the reasons why they’re shopping for a particular brand.
I worked for a large pet manufacturer in the early 200s. They had a small line of pet apparel and did the entire line of Petco’s private label. It was right around then when pet apparel first exploded on the market in a different way than it had before. Maybe you had a blanket coat for a hunting dog, but then along came Paris Hilton and her little dog Tinkerbell, and all of a sudden we’re seeing pet apparel covered in rhinestones and designer label carriers. It became important for brands to have a little vignette of pet things to sell with their accessories for people to buy as gifts.
What inspired the design of these denim jackets?
I wanted them to have a little bit of edge and a little bit of sweetness. I mixed in a pretty floral pattern and some hand-painted stripes and bright colors. It’s unique and artsy, but we also wanted to make sure it looked very clean and felt professionally done. You can wash it and dry it, and it’s still functional.
When I think about dachshunds, they’re long and skinny. All dogs bring a smile to people’s faces, but dachshunds do that in particular. They’re hysterical, adorable, and fit so much personality into one little hot dog-shaped body — all of which I kept in mind when I was designing. The stripes go along the length of the body, for example, in thinking about how much mileage we can get out of their length. Kind of like with human fashion, we try to strengthen their assets and work with their body shapes. Dachshunds are special — and they know it — which is why they need a unique design for their clothes.
What types of fabric do you use for pet clothes?
I had to make sure that everything was washable, because dachshunds are so low to the ground, and the underneath of their clothes get dirty right away. Comfort and stretch is important too, especially because it helps a piece fit more body types.
We used 100% recycled denim for the jackets, which I think fits Wtizig’s company philosophy. We used pant legs, which are almost the perfect long and skinny shape. People donated the denim to us -- I live in a big building in Brooklyn, and I asked if anyone had denim that they wanted to get rid of from cleaning out their closets. Ultimately, I ended up with more than I needed. It’s been sourced in a very organic, grassroots way.
Did any challenges present themselves along the way?
Fit is definitely a challenge, because of dachshunds’ unique body shape. They have such a crazy barrel chest! They look like little dogs, and their measurements are fairly little, too, and then a garment won’t fit over this one chest bone. Just like humans, dachshunds can have different body types. We have three sizes for the jackets, so I tried to figure out how to capture as many sizes within that range that we could.
Normally, we work with professional dog fit models and have fittings, but because of COVID, we couldn’t all be in the same room. Instead, we did all of our fittings over Zoom. I started with a doxie in New Jersey who was owned by a woman I worked with at Tommy Hilfiger, so she knew fashion and how to measure. We tried to get the right angles and measurements over Zoom and then did revisions, just like we would in a normal fitting, except I wasn’t physically in the room. It would definitely have been easier if I was there to really see, but we made it work. We sent all the sizes to a handful of different dachshund families, too, to collect as much feedback as possible. Since fits can be pretty confusing, the more feedback we could get, the better.
What did you enjoy most about this project?
Fashion got really boring in the companies I was working for because they wanted to play everything safe, so as a designer, I couldn’t design and play with ideas. It was considered too risky because it might not sell. I feel so unbelievably lucky that I’m doing exactly what I want to do, which is create fun stuff for companies that are growing and have a vision and are sticking to it.
Are you a dog person?
Absolutely. I grew up with a lot of animals. My parents and I were big animal suckers. I had a dog, cat, bunnies, you know… I worked in a pet store and for a vet, too, so we always had dogs and I would take them to work and everything. We were animal crazy… I’m not sure how I was allowed to have all of these animals. I even became a vegetarian when I was 10 because I realized what eating meat meant to me. I’ve always felt a really big connection with animals.