Couture that makes tails wag

These days, it’s not just your own gown or tux to consider when dressing for a gala — your fur baby needs to look glamorous too

Canine couture by Anthony Rubio

Earlier this year, when Mila sauntered into the New York Pet Fashion Show decked out in a YSL gown — the exact replica of her mom’s — all eyes were on her. Although it’s typically a faux pas for two socialites to debut the same designer frock at an extravagant fete, it’s noteworthy when one guest has four legs instead of two.

Mila, a teacup Yorkshire terrier with a brindle coat, is described by her owner, the well-known poker player Beth Shak, as “a ball of fluff with a magnetic personality.” She is just one of many furry fashion hounds sporting canine couture at galas lately.

Indeed, not only is it acceptable to bring your dog to a fine fete, but many Upper East Side events like the recent Bideawee Ball, held at the Pierre Hotel, and even the famed Met Gala, put dogs in the spotlight. And there are other big New York benefits that feature best-dressed pups, including the ones by Leesa Rowland’s Animal Ashram and Wendy Diamond’s Paws for Style event, which benefits the Humane Society of New York.

That’s not all. Dogs have taken over the runway during New York Fashion Week and are even having their own weddings. At her 2012 nuptials, Baby Hope, a rescue dog adopted by Diamond, a pet expert and TV personality, wore a $6,000 custom wedding dress. The lavish affair, which benefited the Humane Society of New York, cost $250,000.

But with so many fancy people lavishing attention on their little princes and princesses, it can be tough to find the right couture to impress other guests. Fortunately, there are talented folks who can help get your dogs ready for their close-up (or Instagram). LLNYC rounded up a few of the best pet couturiers in New York City.

Talented NYC designers such as Ada Nieves,
Maggie Norris, Roberto Negrin and Anthony Rubio
can makes sure your beloved dogs
are dressed to the nines. 

Pet designer Ada Nieves, who fashioned Mila’s gown, is best known for creating dog-sized replicas of Academy Awards gowns worn by such stars as Kate Winslet, Kirsten Dunst and Penelope Cruz. Nieves’s creations have been featured at the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals Adoptapalooza, the NYC Canine Cruise and the Meet the Breeds pet fashion shows for the American Kennel Club.

“I make my own patterns, search for the fabric — I actually loves to paint my own fabric — fit the dogs and then sew the pieces myself,” Nieves said. 

And this is couture, after all. “My most expensive design was a collaboration made with a friend who is an LED enthusiast. We made the Lumiere dress, valued at $25,000, with a computerized program to control the lights on the dog’s gown,” the designer said.

Likewise, Maggie Norris is known for her bright ideas when it comes to doggie design. Her interest in dressing man’s best friend goes back to her childhood.

“As a little girl, I loved Audrey Hepburn, and she had Yorkshire terriers,” Norris said. “I would always dress my ’Timmy’ with a bow tie and top hat.”

Norris is best known for dressing Michelle Obama, Nicole Kidman, Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, Amy Adams and Naomi Watts, but she has also made a name for herself by making dazzling animal fashions. Publicist R. Couri Hay commissioned Norris to dress his dapper Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Webster Westbrook Alexander Hay, as the Red Baron. “We designed a trench coat, gave him goggles and created a leather antique pilot helmet, along with a red scarf,” said Norris.

Norris’s designs range from a modest $100 to $20,000 plus — still a small price to pay to have your fur baby outfitted by the same woman who dressed the First Lady.

Roberto Negrin is the founder of Hec-lin Couture for Dogs. “It’s hard to choose just one favorite, because I’m always making something outrageous, but one of my best is the ’500 Peacock Feathers Gown,’” Negrin said. The frock was indeed the talk of the town when it debuted at the New York Pet Fashion Show.

Negrin first got into pet fashion when he wanted to enter his own dogs in a pageant and didn’t have enough cash for a gown. He asked his mother to show him how to use a sewing machine so he could outfit his poodle, Hec-lin, who went on to win best dress of the night and first runner-up to the crown.

Similarly, Anthony Rubio said his own rescue dog, Bandit, who used to shake constantly, was his inspiration. “I designed shirts for him, and when I put them on him, the quivering stopped.”

Over the past 12 years, Rubio has created special designs for many prominent society clients. “Perhaps the most memorable was the time I was hired to dress the bulldogs Spartacus and Maximus for the entire season of the talk show of their celebrity parents, Ice T and Coco.”

Rubio is known for his elaborate embellishments like Swarovski crystals and beading, which must be hand-sewn. “The more time a garment takes, the more it costs,” Rubio explained. “One-third of the cost of each garment is donated towards animal rescue.”

According to Shak, it is money well spent. “Mila doesn’t need such a fancy wardrobe, but tell that to any mom,” Shak said. Mila does have her limits on what she will don for parties. “She will not have bows, and I don’t want to annoy her. It is her life,” Shak said.

Pawty on, Mila, pawty on.