A pink terry cloth bathrobe, made by Gooby Pet Fashions, is just one of the many new clothing accessories available for dogs.
By
msnbc.com contributor
updated 7/5/2005 10:30:36 AM ET 2005-07-05T14:30:36

A well-heeled audience sits along the green “lawned” runway at a fashion show in New York. The lights dim, silencing the crowd except for a few heavy breathers. The Elvis Presley classic "You Ain’t Nothing but a Hound Dog" echoes through the hall.

All attention is now focused on the runway entrances, framed to look like doghouses, as a new breed of supermodel bounds onto the catwalk to début fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi’s newest line of canine haute couture for Target Corp. Amidst howls of delight and wagging tails, the audience is on its feet begging for more.

“There were some temperamental bitches backstage,” Mizrahi told MSNBC afterwards. “But the moment those paws hit the catwalk, they were as professional as possible.”

The new buzzword in fashion
Canine couture is the new buzzword in the fashion world. Attended by dogs and their celebrity owners, Mizrahi's show was the first of its kind to be held during New York’s famous Olympic Fashion week in February and has been hailed as a milestone by the pet industry.

“My pet collection is directly related to my home and apparel collections for Target," said Mizrahi. But "while there are definite connections between human and dog trends, dogs are ahead of humans by a season.”

Since Mizrahi’s successful show, which featured hot pink and orange polo shirts for dogs, similar scenes have been repeated across the country from Hollywood, Calif., to Hollywood, Fla., and many cities in between. One such exhibition was the Global Pet Expo held in March in Orlando, Fla., where international designers and buyers gathered to view products for the nouveau canine lifestyle. When it came to fashion, there was something for every hound to be seen in.

In fact, with the growing selection of pet fashions, Fido is going to need a walk-in closet to accommodate all these clothes — everything from faux fur coats and casual parkas, active wear, evening wear and bejeweled footwear, to rugged hiking boots, hats, sun visors and backpacks.

Get ready for summer
In case you’ve been left out in the cold, here’s a rundown of the upcoming trends in canine couture.

Slideshow: Celebrity dogs This summer many dog fashions are going to have a Hawaiian tropical feel with an abundance of hibiscus blooms featured on classic Luau shirts and matching shorts with elastic waistbands, tail holes and non-restrictive bottom openings. Watch out for colorful daisies with a strong retro influence blooming on everything from shoes, visors and carriers.

A new kid on the fashion block and definitely a name to sit up and obediently note is Kara Kono of Miami, Fla. Her signature summer sizzler is a sundress — pretty in pink and a real showstopper — from her current Love Furever Canine Couture Collection. Kono’s designs mix fabrics like lace and chiffon with layering and beadwork for evening wear.

Meanwhile, Robin Kershner’s Fox and Hounds label is going nuts for Snoopy. The animated icon is featured on everything from faux leather bomber jackets to red "doggles." Canines in all shapes and sizes can also wear items from Kershner's Elvis Presley Hound Dog Collection, which includes a gold lame tuxedo, Jailhouse Rock T-shirt, the famed Elvis army jacket, as well as a dazzling Las Vegas jumpsuit and collar charms bearing the letters "TCB" (Taking Care of Business).

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Here comes the bride
As in the world of human fashions, bridal wear is playing an increasingly important role in canine couture. Sandy Mahoney and Sharon Bolger, the design team for the I See Spot label, are being hailed as the Vera Wang and Monique Lhuillier of pet bridal fashions.

“A lot of people are including dogs in their wedding parties or having weddings for their dogs,” says Mahoney. "Consequently there’s a huge demand for pet bridal fashions highlighting lots of satin and lace and mermaid shapes. Fit is very important and we pay a lot of attention to detail.”

The I See Spot bridal collection includes a velvet tuxedo and a ringbearer T-shirt to which bridal couples can attach their rings for puppies to bring down the aisle. There are also Mother of the Bride and Always the Bridesmaid T-shirts for other canines in the bridal retinue or wedding party.

For wedding guests, Sherri Stankewitz's Golddigger ruffs and jezebel collars make ideal party accessories. She leads with a frothy collection of chiffon ribbons, lace, sequins and satin. Stankewitz also has a collection of what she calls “Do-Dahs" — glitter hairgrips and other accessories with ostrich feathers, rhinestones and plenty of glitz.

And while Fido's out partying — or just taking a stroll around the block — he can now support a cause by sporting a purple collar to raise money for pet shelters across the country. The Rally to Rescue collars, which come with a matching wristband for pet parents, cost $5 and are available at pet rescue organizations nationwide or online at http://www.rallytorescue.org

Sponsored by Purina Pro Plan pet food, the program hopes to raise $1 million for shelters with 100 percent of the net proceeds benefiting the participating organizations.

Fashion forward
For practical yet stylish clothes and footwear, check out Gooby Pet Fashion, which produces two collections a year and caters to a range of canine fashionistas. Considered the Gap and Banana Republic of pet clothing, Gooby is offering a preppy puppy look this year with classic plaid sweaters and striped T-shirts. There’s also a vintage look featuring a JFK Jr. naval officer-styled coat and a Shirley Temple dress with a sailor collar. In addition, you'll find classic denim and a wide range of active wear.

Gooby also specializes in footwear and this season's bestsellers are G-Boots, which look like basketball high tops. Hound Hikers, in suede and canvas, are popular, too, and suitable for dogs up to 100 pounds. Gooby has a patent pending on the shoes' special rubber-soled, ergonomic design.

“Dog owners are discovering the practicality of canine footwear,” says John-Carlos "JC" Ynostroza, who runs the Gooby design team with business partner Timothy Yun. “Many dogs enjoy a very active lifestyle and it’s practical for them to wear footwear in the snow, when hiking rough trails or even when out walking on a hot sidewalk. There’s the cleanliness factor, too.”

Gooby's brightly colored shoes are packaged in shoeboxes with protective drawstring bags to hang them in the closet. Ynostroza says they are becoming a big hit among celebrities and also very popular in Japan. But he still hasn't lost sight of the needs of his canine customers.

“Safety and functionality come before fashion,” he says.

Sandy Robins is a freelance writer and columnist based in Irvine Calif. Her work has appeared in numerous publications in the United States and internationally.

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