Designing For Le Chien March 18 2016

In this post I’m going to talk a little bit about Designing for Le Chien and give you some insights into the way I go about it. First let me say that I am not a trained designer, I am a Psychologist by education, a Corporate Exec by experience, I can’t draw, and my only claim to this process is having grown up around it, having been taught by the women in my family who worked in the textile industry and the garment factories, and from making all my own clothes for many years. Then Angelo came along and my distaste for having to put a harness over or under his clothes pushed me to start Spoiled Dog Designs and begin making dog clothes with built in harnesses. Designers who have been formally trained might do it all very differently and for sure their sketches are much better but for what its worth,  I bring different experience to the party.

The typical way that I design is for the harnesses and garments we have on our website and sell in shop. I start with an idea or a particular fabric, create the design, for boys we do a prototype in size Small and fit it to Angelo, for girls we make an XSmall and fit it to Bella. When the fit is right, and we have the trim figured out, patterns are made in all sizes and we go into production. Since most of our market is small dogs, our designs all have built in harnesses.

For a show like Le Chien it’s a very different story. Each outfit is designed for a particular model and custom made to fit that dog. Some walk on harnesses, some on collars, some on show leads. I can do a lot of different things for a dog that doesn’t need a harness…what a fun change of pace!

Just as I use the pictures of the dogs when I shop for fabric, I use their picture to come up with a design that suits their hair/fur, color, shape, personality. Its not much different that when I was doing Management Consulting where the first step is to find out what the client needs. Now my first step is to see what the model needs to look their best – long hair/short hair? white dog/ black dog/ spotted dog? long legs/ short legs? long body/ short body? big chest? narrow waist? Walks on collar or harness? Sweet? Feisty? Active?  Since I’m designing for that specific dog, I take everything about them into consideration.

Since Le Chien is all about the 80’s this year, I did research on 80’s Fashion, 80’s Celebrities, 80’s Music – oh yes, I remember those outfits!  Then I researched what was happening on the runways for Spring 2016. Interestingly much of what was popular in the 80’s was coming back in a more subtle way for Spring 2016. Layered skirts, ruffles, interesting sleeves, plaids, printed and flashy tux jackets for men.  It all comes back around doesn’t it?

I started sketching (if you can what I do a “sketch”) some looks that I would like to adapt to a dog. After all, the gravity is totally different. What flows on a human model, droops down and drags on a dog.

Early sketches of two dresses for Le Chien
Early sketches of two dresses for Le Chien

I told you I couldn’t draw, didn’t I?

These two early sketches wound up being dresses for Mercedes, the Ibizan Hound,  on the left and Laci, the Dalmatian,  on the right. Mercedes wound up in a brown animal print to go with her exotic looks and copper and white spots and Laci’s is black sheer for a dramatic take on her black spots.

Since I’m designing for one dog and not for production, I love to take a picture of the dog and draw on it to come up with a design. Here’s one of Roxie and  my early work on her Le Chien dress.

Sketching Roxie's Dress on her picture.
Sketching Roxie’s Dress on her picture.

As I continued to work on her dress, I filled in more detail to the drawing as the dress started to take on more character.

Roxie's dress as it take shape.
Roxie’s dress as it take shape.

Roxie, like a number of the big dogs in the show, has a big chest and a tiny waist. I like to make something that showcases that tiny waist.

Annie is a black Chihuahua  who looks great in bright colors.  I wanted to play with the black fur so I designed a colorful dress with a black harness that disappears into her fur and all you see if the colorful sheer.

In contrast, Tashi, the Mini Bull Terrier, is white and how can I play that up in her dress…..well, you’ll see at the show. I got an idea from a Red Carpet gown I saw!

Jake D. is a copper colored dog and I found wonderful copper, and silver sequin fabric to showcase his color. Flashy for the 80’s but oh so Runway Spring 2016. And his brother Mickey needs something that will go with it but fit his white fur, big ears and amazing big eyes.

Macintosh, the Wheaten, has classic looks so a blue denim blazer with nautical appliqués just seemed right for him.

Luca, the Aussie/ Jack Russell mix, could easily play the tough guy and every time I looked at him I thought of James Dean…..so I went with it.

Bogey’s a big guy so I can make everything bigger, the lapels, the buttons, the bow tie and he can carry it all but it has to be bright enough to show on his dark grey coloring.

Scruffy and Snickers are married and are walking together so their outfits have to match. I had made the Tuxedo for Snickers for their wedding so maybe daytime outfits for them. And their showing so many printed blazers for men this year. Snickers would look great in that style!

Stella has a mohawk and she can take strong colors. She wears clothes every day so I can do anything for her and she will be comfortable.

And so goes my thinking about what to do for each and every dog. Something to fit them, look great on them, showcase their body and personality. After all none us look great in every style, we choose clothes that work for us. I think its the same way for the dog models. If I design something that is right for a particular dog, they will look their best on the runway.

The next step is to  get it on paper for the seamstresses…..did I tell you I can’t draw? I do a very rough sketch, with lines and notes here and there. Where the print goes, what’s solid, this is blue, that’s white, trim here, nothing there….and on and on.

Here’s the sketch that was used to create Scruffy’s dress. I admit its pretty amazing that anyone could interpret what I do and turn these notes into the end product. Maybe I should take a drawing class…. I’d include a picture of the finished dress for comparison but you’ll have to come to the show to see it.

Notes for Scruffy's dress
Notes for Scruffy’s dress

At that point the sketch, notes, a picture of the dog, their measurements, the fabric, trim, buttons, lining, tulle, and everything else that is going on the outfit go into a bag with the dog’s picture on top. Ready for the seamstress to take it and turn it into the outfit I imagined. If she can rad my writing.

Bags ready for the cutting table.
Bags ready for the cutting table.

For dogs like Madison, Clyde, Zoe, Jake D, Jake P, Mickey and Scuffy and Snickers, we have a lot of experience working with their body type so we can get the garment almost finished before the fitting.  For the hounds and big dogs, their bodies are so dramatic that we only partially make the garment then fit it to the dog and finish it after that. That’s how it is for Laci, Mercedes, Tashi,  Vendetta, Roxie and Rainey.

When the outfit comes back to me it still needs a lot of work. Trim, bows, flowers, all go on by hand. For Murphy’s and Bella’s dresses it meant cutting loads of flowers out of the fabric and stitching them on to the bodice stitch by stitch. Then I have to select the perfect lead and collar for the dogs that walk on a collar. And there’s accessories – necklaces, feathers or crystals for ears, and designing and making hats to match.  After all Accessories can make an outfit and this is Le Chien… (that was typed with a very dramatic voice tone)

So that, in a big nutshell, are the steps we go through to design and create the outfits that the dogs of Le Chien will wear on the Catwalk – or Dogwalk as I prefer to say – on April 3rd at Le Chien the dog fashion show that kicks off Palm Springs Life’s Fashion Week El Paseo. The dogs all have Groomer appointments, and so do I. We’re all getting Mani/Pedi’s. The only difference is that they have something to wear and I don’t…..I need a designer!

Stay tuned for more about Le Chien and the Dogs of Le Chien.

Thank you for reading.

 

 

 

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