Falling into Fashion
Manufacturers say that while the classics will prevail this fall, the season’s products will feature exciting new fabrics, textures and colors.
The fall season will usher in a wealth of new trends, colors and styles, and not just in the human fashion world.
Pet product designers say they are infusing the market with a plethora of new products boasting rich, deep colors, as well as some fun, colorful and outdoorsy motifs. New items in various pet product categories—from collars, leashes and apparel to beds and toys—will afford pet specialty retailers a prime opportunity to fuel a fresh surge in sales following the dog days of summer.
One thing that will be sure to grab pet owners’ attention this fall will be the eye-popping hues and designs that many product manufacturers are sure to unveil.
“The trend has always been bright and bold colors,” says Alisha Navarro, president of 2 Hounds Design in Monroe, N.C. “People are rarely looking for muted colors when they are dressing their dogs, because really, the only pop of color they get is that one small bit around the neck.”
The company makes collars, leashes and the Freedom No-Pull Harness, which Navarro says has been so successful that 2 Hounds Design has increased capacity by 30 percent. For fall, Navarro expects the Paradise Found Peacock Collars to be 2 Hounds Design’s bestseller. The collar is made in the U.S.A. and features jacquard ribbon with a bright peacock design against a navy or deep plum background. Also, 2 Hounds Design is introducing several collars for fall, including one featuring a quatrefoil design that Navarro says “is full of jewel-tone goodness.”
However, while the market may have plenty of new designs to offer this fall, manufacturers also expect the classics to perform well at retail. “We do find the traditionally fall-ish palette works for us,” says Donna Bodell, vice president and designer for Up Country, based in East Providence, R.I. “People buy collars very seasonally, so stores bring things in four times a year. Fall is a really nice time to bring in those other colors.”
The company’s Arcadia collar collection features neutral colors with outdoorsy and sporty motifs, such as pheasants, polar bears and camouflage. The Town and Country collection offers collars with plaids and with equestrian themes. Bodell says the Anchors Aweigh collar may appeal to dog owners who favor the beach, while the Paw Prints collar may attract hiking enthusiasts. “We feel like we are working with every aspect of the family’s life,” she says.
Holidays are another aspect of family life that manufacturers tap into, and fall kicks off the holiday season with Halloween. Up Country offers collars with Jack-o’-lanterns and candy-corn designs. Bodell says Up Country does huge business from mid-September through the end of October and will showcase four new Halloween collar designs this year.
Football resurfaces in the fall as another popular theme in pet products. Up Country’s new Go Team! collars are available in the most popular college and professional team colors. The 15 items have bold colors and patterns such as diamonds, stripes and paw prints, and no specific team names. That way fans of any team that wears, for example, orange and blue or green and white can buy the collars. Baby boomers with college-age children tend to be enthusiastic buyers of the Go Team! collars, Bodell says.
On the apparel side, Up Country’s fall must-have is the Chester Barn Coat, a cotton canvas coat with a plaid lining and a corduroy collar that resembles popular fall jackets that humans wear. “We like to say we reinvent the classics,” she adds. “We put a spin on the classic and traditional looks.”
Another spin on a classic comes from Los Angeles-based Hip Doggie, which introduced HD Featherlite Puffer Vests for fall. “These coats are made of an incredibly soft and lightweight outer shell,” says CEO Sue Kim. “The bonus is that they are fully reversible for two great color options, and there are five fantastic color combinations.”
Dressing for the Season
The Hip Doggie puffer vests have the HD crest logo embroidered on the collar and a designer HD zipper closure for the leash hole. The reflective banding stripes on both sides can help with safety, and the double-wide Velcro closure makes the vest easy to adjust and take on and off. “No detail or feature was spared to complete this designer look,” says Kim. “We are looking for these puffer vests to make a huge splash this year.”
Hip Doggie also launched the HD MonClaw Puffer Vest, an upscale hooded puffer vest. The vests feature a soft, water-repellent material with a glossy shine in three classic colors, a soft faux-fur interior and a removable hood. “These jackets will certainly appeal to our most sophisticated pups,” she says.
Another wardrobe essential, Kim adds, is the HD Puppagonia Fleece Vest, which is a soft and warm seasonal sweater vest. The vest is designed to be comfortable enough for the pup to wear all day, and there is a zipper along the back with a fur-guard feature. The sweater knit on the belly stretches for a perfect fit. “We follow both human and dog fashion trends to properly outfit and represent the modern dog,” Kim says. “Classic style seems to dominate the dog apparel world, so it’s fun to try to create style that is new and different.”
Julie Jurrjens, design manager for the Best Furry Friends pet product brand, says that while true-blue is back for fall, other colors will also make appearances in the clothing category. “Orange-influenced reds will warm the coming winter,” she says. “Camel and forest green are classic colors that will feel fresh this season and work well with bright pops of trend colors. These are accessible colors practically everyone can love.”
Menswear-influenced fabrics like tweed are also on-trend and are popular for their classic, upscale flair. Best Furry Friends, a brand produced by children’s toy manufacturer Hong Kong City Toys, will have new pajamas and jackets in its boutique line this fall. The brand will also offer Halloween- and Christmas-themed items.
Resting In Style
Meanwhile, apparel and collars are not the only categories that must keep up with current trends. Manufacturers are also offering beds and toys in trendy colors and fabrics. Will Chen, founder and owner of San Francisco-based P.L.A.Y. Pet Lifestyle and You, says Marsala—a reddish-brown wine hue—is the Pantone 2015 color of the year, and P.L.A.Y. decided to include Marsala as one of the color palettes on the Moroccan lounge bed launching this fall.
“Marsala is a play on the traditional red color but mixed with a bit of brown that gives the tone body, richness and warmth,” says Chen. “We think this is a color that will stick around for years to come, as it is easy on the eyes and translates easily to home furnishings and interiors.”
P.L.A.Y. is also adding two prints, Houndstooth and Moroccan, to the company’s bestselling Lounge Bed collection. “These classic patterns come in beautiful color palettes that will look fantastic in retail stores and home interiors,” says Chen. “In keeping with our style, these beds will have contrasting piping to give them that bit of edginess and pop.”
Also new from P.L.A.Y. are three toy collections the company debuted this summer: Farm Fresh, Momo’s Monsters and Bugging Out. “These are squeaky plush toys in whimsical shapes and characters that stand out to shoppers,” says Chen. “Momo’s Monsters were inspired by our pet parenthood of Momo and realizing how most pets were little monsters to their parents at some point.” Each toy has a name and a story attached to highlight the dog-human bond.
Pets and humans often bond through play, and interactive toys for both dogs and cats are a big growth area. “There was a lot of innovation in the market this year, and I’m looking forward to seeing it in stores,” Jurrjens adds.
Store buyers should make sure to order items early for fall, and even think ahead to winter, says Marianne Bertrand, president of Muttluks in Toronto.
“What I’m finding is [that] people are preparing really well for the winter. Rather than saying, if it’s cold I will buy something, they are buying things early,” she says.
Among Muttluks’ latest offering are Snow Mushers, high-performance microfiber boots that feature fleece lining and rubber soles. The company launched Snow Mushers last November, making this year the first full fall season when they are available, and Muttluks is hoping to capitalize on the uptick in cold-weather gear shopping that happens during the back-to-school sales seasons.
Yet, while cooling temperatures and back-to-school sales may inspire people to shop, retailers cannot afford to rest on their laurels. Stores can and should do all they can to boost sales. Kim notes that attractive displays and dedicated sections for clothing are always a good idea. Apparel forms or dog mannequins work well too. Even better, says Kim, is having an in-house model.
“Good signs and photos of dog models always help the customer visualize how the apparel looks on,” she says. “Some of the best pet apparel marketing we have seen is always making sure the trusty shop dog is wearing the latest and greatest.” TPE