HomeFashionBill Schmick: Pet clothing is a billion-dollar business

Bill Schmick: Pet clothing is a billion-dollar business

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Coats to protect your pets from severe weather, or orange safety vests during hunting season, have long been fairly common.

But today, the fashion industry has embraced the concept and taken pet clothing to new heights.

Canine couture is a big business. The pet clothing business market is growing by 4.5 to 5 percent per year, and by 2030 should exceed $9.15 billion annually, according to Brainy Insights, a research firm that tracks sales in the pet industry. The U.S. accounts for 30 percent of global sales and hit almost $2 billion in 2022.

I divide the pet clothing market into two segments: clothes that are practical, and clothes that are indulgent. Practical items have a surprisingly long history.

Ancient Greek armies, for example, would fasten leather boots on their horses to protect them from the snow. Greyhound and whippet owners have long-used coats to keep their pets warm in cold weather. Police horses and dogs are often dressed in fluorescent coverings.

Certain kinds of animals benefit from wearing coats, boots and rain gear. Dogs that are old, thin, tiny, elderly, have thin coats or are ill often need protection from severe temperatures, rain and snow.

Therapy jackets and those that are used for medical conditions such as hip dysplasia and canine arthritis or to protect an incision from the aftermath of surgery are useful protective clothing.

Our dog, Atreyu (a poodle), has an insulated coat, which came in handy this winter in sub-zero temperatures. He also wears an orange vest during hunting seasons. Boots, on the other hand, while useful, (due to the heavy use of salt in our area during snow season), are a no-go. As it is, this dog is such a drama queen that he balks and runs when he sees his coat come out of the closet.

Canine couture, however, is an entirely different world. It is here that I believe that our tendency to anthropomorphize our pets has run rampant.

Anthropomorphism is the tendency to map human traits and emotions onto animals. For many, assigning human characteristics to our pets helps them to make sense of the world around them.

For others seeing our pets as human-like fulfills a social need. They believe that dressing dogs, cats, and other animals in trendy, high-fashion clothing allows the pet and the owner to stand out and gain social status among certain groups. In short, you are dressing your pet for success. Doing so today, however, may cost you more than dressing yourself.

A deluge of high-end fashion houses has jumped into the pet clothing business with specially designed pet collections. Dior, Prada, Versace and Fendi, among many others, offer everything from designer purses to matching people/pet outfits for all occasions.

Their success has spawned all sorts of marketing efforts.

Tika, an Italian Greyhound model, has over a million Instagram followers and has been a big celebrity at New York City’s Fashion Week. Boobie Billie, an Italian Sighthound/Chihuahua, another Instagram favorite, has launched a luxury clothing line.

Dozens of lesser-known pet celebrities are modeling for various brands and establishing followings on social media. Dog agencies are springing up and signing these four-legged stars to contracts. The rates vary per dog, but these new influencers have millions of followers.

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