Although men’s apparel business has been tough since the pandemic, people still splurge on their pets. So what better way to jumpstart sluggish sales than to offer a new collection of stylish apparel for man’s best friends.
“I grew up with yellow labs,” says K9wear founder James Straggas. “It wasn’t until I moved to a Boston apartment that my wife and I adopted Ronnie, our Boston Terrier. In the first few months, he was very sick and almost died, but he persevered. Months later, Ronnie encountered his first Winter day in New England. Accustomed to big dogs, it took me a while to realize that his shaking was actually shivering. So I bought him a red fisherman knit sweater, which was impossible to get on him: he fought it all the way and, once on, with the additional harness atop, it looked terrible. That’s when I had the idea to create an easy-to-fasten, perfectly fitting, comfortable harness to which various outfits could be easily attached.”
Ronnie is now healthy and happy; he serves as K9Wear’s CEO. Prior to founding the business, Straggas sold marketing technology to fashion brands in New York City where he met menswear exec Andy Carter, also a dog lover (and a judge at numerous international dog shows including Westminster and Crufts, the largest dog show in the world). Andy contacted Jeffrey Banks, another dog lover and a colleague from their days at Merona; Banks agreed to do their first designer collaboration with K9Wear’s chief designer Nicole Franklin, a veteran of NY fashion who brought the vision to life with guidance from Dr. Tom DeVencentis, NYC vet to celebrities (and author of Tails of the City) to ensure safety.
“People love to dress up their dogs, for both fashion and warmth,” says Banks. “The biggest problem is that dogs reject anything that’s not comfortable.” So James solved the problem with his (patent-pending) harness and interchangeable apparel, adjustable at the waist and neck, made at a factory in New York’s garment district. “We use the same domestically-made webbing material used by the U.S. military,” adds Straggas, “We guarantee the harness for life: if your dog outgrows it, simply donate it to a shelter and we’ll provide a new one free of charge.”
Fashionable K9wear outfits can be attached to the harness (sizes XXS-4XL) via D-ring before the harness is put on the dog. Pricing varies according to the designer; Bank’s leather/shearling bomber jacket will be priced at $60 and a leather-trimmed duffle coat with wooden toggles at about $100. However, the core line, designed by Franklin, consists of over 40 pieces of apparel, all priced at $45. When a customer buys the harness, it comes packaged with a given number of outfits in a luxurious gift box.
K9wear will officially launch online next week, with separate points of entry for wholesale and retail. “We look forward to partnerships with both retailers and brands,” says Straggas. “We hope to develop exclusive collections for individual stores as well as iconic designers and we’re also planning to do one-offs of the outfits in adult sizes.”
We can already envision store windows with dad and doggy mannequins in matching shearling-trimmed bomber jackets. How about store-sponsored contests for best dad and doggie photo shoots. It’s a dog’s life, after all.
For inquiries around brand partnerships, contact Chad Petipas at Chad@K9Wear.com.