Robin Dutt talks to one couple who are putting man’s best friend in the finest threads available
I hope this is an apocryphal story. Some years ago, a European traveller was enjoying the variety of Chinese culture when she felt a little peckish. Eschewing what street food was available, she entered a restaurant with her tiny dog in a bag. The lady sat with her dog and indicated to the waiter through sign language that she wished to order and also to feed the dog. With great politeness, the dog was taken away and in time the waiter returned with a steaming dish of noodles and spicy meat. No dog as such, was in sight. Lost in translation? I’d say.
But the truth of the canine matter is that, in general, most of the world loves dogs – as pets, not indeed all belonging to lettuce-munchers in Chanel-at-lunch. Some have to work for their keep with sheep, guide those who are visually impaired, or scour the forest’s ferny floor for fallen pheasant. Cute/useful (or both) spring to mind.
So, a paws (sorry!) for a bright thought which occurred to Mark Rodriguez and Lisa Yatabe, pictured above, who have come up with a concept to clothe beast – and man – in the best threads available, courtesy of Savile Row stalwarts, Holland & Sherry. While pieces for pooches is not a new idea per se, Tail-or-Made looks to bring functionality and glamour to both with three labels to choose from – Black Label (bespoke), Green Label (made to measure) and White Label (ready to wear). The pair are serious about their coats so you’ll find no sparkly collars or leg warmers here – just immaculately tailored pieces to help both master and hound repel the inclement elements.
Dogs provide work for many hands from leather workers to the pet food industry, vets to doggy parlours (dodgy description!). And when that dreadful time comes – think of the pet undertaker, even the taxidermist – and Tail-or-Made seems to be right on trend. And with the many fashionable ‘mix-ups’ currently finding favour – cockapoos, labradoodles, puggles and chuskies – dogs like these may be the ideal customers.
The poet Alexander Pope wrote the following lines – “I am his majesty’s dog at Kew, pray tell me sir, whose dog are you?” Now this is the kind of dog Tail-or-made was, well, made for. Unashamedly, Rodriguez and Yatabe explain that their aim is to “create luxury tailoring for dogs and their owners – to cater for the country resident and also offer the country mood for the city dweller.” Their slogan is: “Don’t do as one does. Dress as one does.”
Rodriguez has a decade of experience on The Row and Yatabe is a celebrity stylist. A winning combination – especially as their personal chemistry is so good. Identifying the market was, if not easy, then perfectly logical. Those who are passionate about their canine companions often hold them in higher esteem than the creatures they are forced to work with. And why not? Sadly gone brilliant stylist Isabella Blow, one-time fashion editor of variously Vogue, Tatler and The Sunday Times, used to wash down her desks with Perrier water. I know many who eschew Thames tap for Hildon Still for their furry friends. And considerate pottery queen Emma Bridgewater is among many who always have a bowl of water for passing pups.
Holland & Sherry is one of the world’s most respected fabric companies in the world, the mill’s 180-year heritage adds a certain authority and the whole concept bathed in good old English eccentricity. Choosing from their seductive swatch books makes the process of choosing frankly difficult and obviously plants the seed in the mind of the shopper that one can never have too many outfits. Co-ordinating outfits for owner and dog might make most sense if there is an outfit for every day of the week. But this need not be a case of ultra match between the two. Subtly picking up on a colour here or a texture there, trimmings and buttonings are all to be had at Tail-or-Made.
If the term “Luxury for Dogs” sticks in certain craws, those people are simply not earning enough. They must try harder. For, like the more usual bespoke and made-to-measure garments made on Savile Row, Tail-or-Made garb should be regarded as investment pieces.
The most established women’s weekly, The Lady, has a certain Darcey Bussell in residence – a mild mannered Dachshund – who to boot has an eponymous lifestyle column, describing the vagaries of its week. The basket is hard by a rose velvet mini chaise longue in the editor’s office.
Known for its clean lines and slim silhouette of its outerwear, Tail-or-Made advises adroitly but of course here as anywhere, the customer is king. It still wouldn’t hurt to listen to the experts. One suspects that when measuring a dog there is no need for spoken codes when it comes to measuring however. One celebrated tailor’s frequently used SLABDCH when measuring particular customers. The translation? “Stands like a broken down cab horse!”
I know a gentleman who often seeks my counsel when deciding on what colour to choose for his dog’s lead and collar. The dog in question is a delicious minky-grey so that neutrality suggests the complete rainbow, the owner rejecting black because it is too harsh, he feels. Yet another has his grandmother crochet coats for his pet – a rat catcher type which resembles mini versions of the sofa throws from The Big Bang Theory.
But, sadly with price an issue, Tail-or-Made cannot be for every dog, however deserving. Spare a thought for Molly from Essex, a cocker spaniel who can untie shoelaces, open doors and helps with the washing up but whose owner can’t afford such luxuries. Or celebrate the handsome and beautiful mutts which the glorious PDSA treats and Battersea Home tries re-home, or indeed St Mungo’s charity. Still, a dog can dream…
Exquisitely made and made to echo the owners’ choice of coat there is something so very reassuring about striding through park, forest or wood with a matched companion. And with a certain brand of doggy treats selling for more than fillet steak, the ones who disagree with all this pooch-pampering might just have to get used to that little green monster.