It wasn’t Taco’s first time to dress up—like, really dress up. The five-year-old male chihuahua has worn formal wear before. On this overcast afternoon, Taco looked very dapper and sharp in his maroon tuxedo. And he smiled for the camera, too.
Like a real gentleman in tux, Taco was calm and quiet, oblivious to the circus around him. And what a circus it was—of dogs in different shapes, sizes and temperaments, all suited up and barking.
As the photographer snapped photos of Black I, the Parsons Jack Russell dressed in a layered number made of organza, chiffon and Chinese shantung, a groomer was styling the long coat of Kisses, a Schnauzer propped on a table.
Meantime, Taco sat quietly on his chair, appearing attentive to what pet couture designer Bernie Alfonso Leytte was saying.
“Some people come up to me and say I’m humanizing the pets. I don’t look at it that way. I see this as pampering the pets. It’s not like they wear gowns or dresses every day,” Leytte said.
A former bank senior manager, the young Leytte started designing pet clothes as a hobby six years ago by recycling some of her old ones and deconstructing them to fit her pet pooch. An old bonnet, for instance, was transformed into her dog’s sweater when she put holes in it to fit the head and the legs.
Leytte knows dressmaking—for people. She grew up observing her grandmother, who loved clothes and created dresses, and was used to the sight of two or three sewing machines in the house.
When she started making clothes for pets, it all came back to her naturally. Soon, she was dressing up her friends’ pets, until one day, another friend decided to take it a step further by requesting a specially made gown—for a fee, of course.
“It was also about the same time my mother-in-law decided to set up a pet shop in Tiendesitas. Not wanting to pass up an entrepreneurial opportunity, I decided to sell some of my creations in her shop,” she said.
Today, Leytte is one of about only three pet couture designers in the country. Her label, Doodles Pet Couture, also has a line of RTW, and its Facebook fan page already has close to 6,000 fans. She gets orders from the Visayas and Mindanao, and even from neighboring Asian countries.
Long gown with pearls
It usually takes anywhere from one day to two to three weeks to make a gown. One gown that took her a month to finish was a special request from a customer abroad. It was for a wedding, and the long gown had pearls, with other materials and fabrics sent from abroad.
She said designing clothes for pets can be tricky, especially for males. They need to have their body length, legs and girth measured. Since she gets many orders from out of town, Leytte makes sure her clients get the measurements right by watching them measure their pets in real time over FaceTime.
Females need only have their neck and chest measured. She designs the gown according to what inspires her.
“My creativity and fashion sense are based on what I want. I pick up designs by watching fashion trends abroad, by watching the red carpet. I don’t look at dog gowns,” Leytte said.
The headdresses are inspired by those she saw during the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate.
Leytte chooses fabrics and designs clothes with the pet’s comfort in mind. She has turned down offers to do gowns using heavy fabrics or outrageous designs.
Last Halloween, for example, some people wanted their toy breeds to drag around big coffins as part of the costume. Leytte politely said no.
Do not make the mistake, too, of showing magazine cutouts of pet gowns. “I don’t copy designs. I make my own designs. We can sit down and discuss what you want, but don’t ask me to make copies.”
Mobile (0922) 8158864, e-mail [email protected]. Doodles Pet Couture’s RTW line available online at Facebook fan page.
All dogs courtesy of Domino Haus Kennel.