“I just want to stay really strong with my brand and keep being a positive light for people. The more I can be recognised as a fashion icon, the more that dream gets closer and closer,” the influencer Boobie Billie recently told The Insider. Billie’s near-daily stream of selfies show her sitting glamorously in catwalk-ready poses, dressed in Jacquemus, Ganni and Chanel, for her 257,000 Instagram followers. It should also be noted that Billie is … a dog. A greyhound-chihuahua mix, to be specific. “I don’t wear dog clothes,” “she” told Women’s Wear Daily, on the eve of the launch of her own fashion range featuring silk scarves and purses, explaining: “It’s a serious fashion brand – without the serious attitude, of course.”
Call it a collective pandemic meltdown, but Billie is the face of petcore: the growth of clothing options for your pooches and moggies. While the fashion industry faces falling sales and grapples with its cultural position, labels such as Versace, Thom Browne and, on the high street, Arket have all released pet apparel.
Sales of pet clothing went up in the pandemic – according to eBay, there has been a 45% increase in searches this year. Now Dsquared2 has announced that it is planning to bring out a dog couture range, including bandanas, lumberjack shirts and leather leashes. While the online fashion store Ssense has collaborated with designers such as Ashley Williams and Marine Serre for an exclusive pet-specific range. No wonder in May, James Corden’s Late Late Show replaced Met Gala coverage with a Pet Gala.
“There’s a growing interest for customers to reflect their own individual style and match it with their dog’s through clothing,” Brigitte Chartrand, the vice-president of womenswear buying at Ssense told Women’s Wear Daily. Indeed, lockdown brought owners closer to their pets physically and psychologically, with more owners working from home and spending more time with their pets.
“Anthropomorphism trends in the UK pet market have never been more apparent than in 2020,” says Mark Waddy, the director of MTW Research. He cites the pet snacks market and the popularity of human-like treats like doggy ice cream and chocolates for dogs, dog perfume as other examples of ‘anthropomorphism’ driven consumer trends. “One of the more recent trends would be ‘doggy drinks’ such as beer and wine – specifically produced for dogs,” he says. “Pets are fully established as a ‘primary family member’ among most pet-owning households.”
He adds that, “during the Covid-19 pandemic, pet owners have been walking their dogs more – increasing the focus on pet clothing.” And the trend isn’t confined to the designer end: there is affordable pet apparel to buy at H&M. Eric Musgrave, a former editorial director of Drapers, agrees. “As well as binge-watching box sets, cleaning out the attic and sorting all those folders of digital photos, playing dressing up with your pets is one way to pass the long days,” he says.
Pet shops, unlike clothing stores, remained open during lockdown so there was little decline in sales. By 2024, it is expected to reach £40m, according to MTW- a economic projection that was made before the crisis but which looks likely to stand given the current buzz.
With petcore showing no sign of slowing down, it’s worth noting that the RSPCA does not object to the category of dog clothing as a whole. “There can be clear benefits for dogs wearing some forms of clothing, for example, to help them keep warm in cold weather and to aid visibility at night,” says a spokesperson. However the organisation points out that garments should be chosen with meticulous care, always putting the dog’s needs before aesthetics. “Clothing needs to allow dogs to behave normally so they can go to the toilet, exercise, drink and eat. It should not restrict hearing, sight or their ability to communicate with other dogs and people.”
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