In The Beginning
Musings. Late Fall/Winter 1994. You've worked so hard on the design of this coat, Suzanne. And now there is no one to wear it. Could there be a way to honor Vroma and make her coat available to other dog lovers. Perhaps. There are many questions. What fabrics? What sizes? Patterns? Can Suzanne make enough of them if many people want them? If not, can we find someone local to handmake the coats for us?
When you think of winter scenes, the first thing you imagine is someone walking on a snow covered sidewalk in Manhattan or Paris or London with the collar of their wool coat turned up, leaning into the wind, with snow flakes swirling around them. We're making winter coats for dogs. They should be wool and let's line them with faux fur for that added touch.
February 1995. Creativity must, at some point, move towards reality otherwise the vision will never be realized. We needed to see many breeds to determine what sizes seemed logical. What better place than the Westminster Dog Show! After all, there is something about New York that makes you feel as though you can do anything; that the sky is the limit and that you are almost invincible. The day was spent determining what breeds would appreciate being bundled up against the elements and taking some general measurements. Then it was off to a café for a relaxing glass of wine before boarding the train back to Philadelphia.
Details. Always a necessity, if you're doing things right. Sometimes a curse, if you allow yourself to get bogged down. It's time to give our company a name. We will honor Vroma. Suzanne does a beautiful drawing of Vroma's head for our logo. Our company will be Canine Couture Collection.
Our Company Evolves
Suzanne's line drawings and muslin (a garment mockup) have turned into patterns which have been graded for different sizes. Moving ahead.
The overwhelming size of the warehouse. Rows of industrial storage racks that are 12 feet high filled with bolts of fabric. I never could have imagined such a place existed. Suzanne is right at home. We find beautiful wools and faux fur for linings. Exhausting for me, exhilarating for Suzanne.
The manufacture of coats (Suzanne at her Mother's Singer sewing machine) has begun.
We need to test the market, so we begin visiting local Pet Boutiques both in Philadelphia and New York. The reception the coats receive is encouraging. We are selling coats during the fall and winter.
February 1996. Suzanne receives a call from Patricia McLoughlin, a writer for the Style Section of The Philadelphia Inquirer Magazine. She has heard about the coats and would like to come and interview Suzanne. We welcome the opportunity as the publication is syndicated. The interview appears in the February 4th edition. We begin to get phone calls from people who want coats. Stores that we have visited order coats. The rest of 1996 is filled with hard work, meeting with shop owners and filling orders.
We realize the need to reach a wider audience from different parts of the country. The logical solution is attending trade shows. The largest pet industry trade shows are run by H.H. Backer Associates and, as their 1997 Spring show is in Atlantic City, we take a trip to see what exhibiting would entail. It seems a bit overwhelming, but we decide that it is something we must do. The Backer Christmas Show, held in Chicago in October, is now a focus.
We are anxious and excited. The dog coat industry is still in its infancy in 1997, as evidenced by the fact that we are one of only two coat companies exhibiting. The other is from England. Most of that first show is a blur. Shop owners love our products and place orders. There is one moment, however, that we will never forget. A lovely English woman and her husband come into our booth. They love our coats and say they will be back to place an order. While talking, during their later visit, we realized that our coats were being purchased for Harrods in London! We had arrived.
Canine Couture Collection Matures
During the years following that first trade show, our wholesale business continued to grow. We sold to local pet stores, such as Braxton's Animal Works in Wayne, PA, and to others across the USA as well as in Canada and Europe. We were even asked to make a special Christmas coat for Neiman Marcus
We found a small manufacturer in Philadelphia to handmake our coats. (Suzanne and the Singer sewing machine couldn't keep up!) A person whose commitment to superior workmanship aligned perfectly with ours. The sewers, who still work with him, make our coats to this day. We know them all. Important, because we would never allow quantity to replace quality of either workmanship or fabric. We added new coat designs as well as new fabrics to address different climates during different seasons.
A couple of our new designs seemed perfect for matching collars, leads and harnesses. We had no expertise in this area, but had been fortunate enough to spend time with Alice Nichols, owner of Up Country, at trade shows. She shared our values. Her factory was in Rhode Island. Would she be willing to make them for us? She said yes. Suzanne designed them and, with the invaluable help of everyone at Up Country, our new line was born. This relationship continues. Priceless.
Sometimes you find yourself at a place on the road you are traveling that offers you a choice. We arrived at that place in 2015. Our business had been good to us. Great relationships had been formed. Things were comfortable and familiar. Opening our own shop, online, would mean going in a very different, and unfamiliar, direction. We talked. We talked with our friends. We knew that we would face unknown surprises, some good, some not so good. It was a leap of faith, but we believed our coats, leads, collars and harnesses, in combination with the core values of our company, would make our new venture a success.
It has been a journey with unexpected twists and turns, but one we are glad we made. The direct contact with our customers has been very rewarding. They have shared heartwarming stories and new ideas. We have laughed and cried together.
And so, as our journey continues, our commitment to you remains. Designs that are timeless, unrivaled attention to detail and the comfort of your best friend. We will keep them safe from the elements.
Thank you for visiting our store. We love hearing from you and are always available to answer any question, or concern, you might have.