As a former client of Savile Row’s finest suit-makers, I thought I’d endured the acme of intimate examination in the service of fashion. But a visit to the atelier of Giovanna Temellini in Milan proved even more invasive. Before I’d even made it through the door she asked me if I was sterilised. Once upstairs she noted that my tail lies high off my bottom.
“My” tail, in fact, belonged to Wanda, the 18-month-old mongrel bitch of whom I’ve become deeply enamoured (it’s mutual) since my girlfriend adopted her last summer. The atelier makes bespoke, co-ordinated outfits for dogs and their owners. This began, says Temellini, when her daughter could not find a raincoat to fit Willy, her dirty-blond cur. Temellini ran up a coat for Willy using rainproof nylon, insulated with reclaimed cashmere. In the four years since, she has developed a flourishing side-hustle in “dog à porter”.
The market for canine couture has been growing for a while – Ralph Lauren, Moschino and Barbour all make clothes that hounds can wear. But outfits such as Temellini’s are different. The atelier’s dog coats and rompers are cut around breed-specific dog mannequins, or “cane-quins”, and cost between $125 and $700. Some animals come in for personal fittings.
Ever more of us are splashing out on our animals to demonstrate our love for them. There are now pet spas (pawdicure, anyone?) as well as specialist products such as “doggles” – goggles for dogs. Some are sceptical. Britain’s Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has suggested that dog owners who put their pets into demeaning costumes could face prosecution. Yet dogs attired in fairy dresses or tracksuits (search for “Adidog” on Amazon) are increasingly common.
All of this adornment seems rather bonkers – after all, dogs come ready-dressed with fur. But we are increasingly imposing our own desires and neuroses on our pets. Many people are merely seeking another outlet for their own consumption. Others effectively treat their dog as a child, one that, usefully, will never grow up to stay out too late, do drugs or criticise their every move.
Canine clothing can make sense. The market in dogs is global: individuals have their pick of breeds, regardless of geography. Yet short-haired varieties such as Wanda originated in warmer climes, and may be ill-suited to the cold. Urban winters can be perilous for paws: de-icing chemicals, grit and salt can all hurt them. An insulating coat and boots can start to seem like sensible acquisitions for a responsible dog owner.
But the non-utilitarian element of this is legitimate too. “The Sherlock”, a cashmere overcoat fashioned after the detective’s own cape, matches the chocolate brown of Wanda’s limpid eyes. My retail rush is broken by her whines to communicate another urge. Yet as we head outside to a grassy verge I promise to return before winter to buy Wanda the first and only coat she will ever need. Of course such luxurious attire is both pointless and pricey. But so is my fondness for Arsenal football club and cigarettes. So unnecessary be damned: the sight of Wanda in that snazzy cashmere coat will warm her body and my heart for many winters to come.•