London is home to some of the world’s most stylish people, with the streets often mirroring runways and magazines, so it’s no surprise that this fashion obsession has moved onto our dogs, too. Ruby from Ruby Rufus breaks down the ins and out of the canine fashion world
How did the Ruby Rufus label come about?
The line began with a love of knitting and an even bigger love for our family dogs. Being a designer in knitwear, I saw friends and clients looking to buy beautiful sweaters for their dogs and there just wasn’t anything out there.
Tell us a bit about the products.
All our products are made from the most gorgeous 100% cashmere which is ethically sourced in Mongolia. We are also currently in the midst of bringing some production to Italy which we are really excited about. Cashmere is a natural fibre that doesn’t harm or irritate dogs’ coats or skin. It can last forever, so your dogs can wear these pieces for years AND they get to stay cosy and chic during the colder months.
Which piece has been the best seller?
We’ve sold out of quite a few styles quickly. The Tulla check with square pattern that featured in O Magazine’s Christmas issue was a huge hit, and the classic Kora cable knit sells out almost immediately each season, as well as our annual Norwegian print. Right now I would say it is the Tuna-Melts-My-Heart collaboration sweater of which part of the proceeds are given to charity. We’re really proud to be able to support a cause that means so much to us.
Why do you think people spend so much money and time on their pets?
People have always loved their pets but I think a few changes in recent years have influenced how we live with them. More and more people are keeping dogs in the city and we can now bring our dogs to a restaurant, into a pub, on a plane and along on a shopping spree. It is wonderful how it is socially acceptable to spend our entire day with our little companions. I have friends who spend every minute with their dogs so it’s only natural that dressing them for warmth and style has evolved. A client of ours who owns a beautiful pet store in Chicago said that years ago people made remarks when they saw a dog wearing a sweater or coat, and now they make comments to owners whose dogs are not wearing one – “Your dog is cold, put a sweater on him!”
Who do you think the brand appeals to?
Just like dog owners who care about what their dogs eat, these owners care about their dog’s comfort, warmth and – hey, why not? – their fashion sense. We have supermodels and celebrities with adorable lap dogs, stylish city dogs and pampered country pooches. We get photos from clients all over the world, some from surprisingly warm climates! Ruby Rufus has been spotted on Marc Jacobs’ dog Neville, Rosie Fortescue’s pup Noodle and Rachel Ray’s dog Isaboo, as well as the famous Instagram canine stars Tuna Melts My Heart, Friends of Finn and Toast Meets the World, who was recently the face of Karen Walker’s Eyewear campaign.
Where do you take your inspiration from and how do you go about designing your pieces?
I take inspiration from everywhere. It can be from seeing some amazing colours together on the street to seeing prints walking the runway, even pieces from my own wardrobe. Our first cable knit was influenced by my boyfriend’s sweater and our Norwegian patterns have been inspired by my grandfather’s vintage skiing sweaters. I just love Navajo prints which evolved into this year’s “Aspen” sweater. We’re so excited about a collaboration with The Muzunga Sisters where we just knew it had to be Peruvian with all the vibrant colours – it took us a year to get it just right. We are constantly sampling new prints and styles and perfecting new shapes, neck styles and arm holes. We get so many requests for dachshunds we are now almost ready with the perfect long “sausage” sweater. We know there is a need for bigger dogs too and we’re working on that.
You have a background as a women’s fashion designer. How do those skills apply or not apply to designing for dogs?
Yes, I worked in the fashion industry in quite a few capacities before becoming head designer for a terrific label. Quite honestly, I don’t think Ruby Rufus could possibly have gotten the successful launch that we’ve had without having the skills I gained working in the industry from design to production, from retail to marketing.
Do you own a dog yourself?
At the moment I don’t have one of my own but I am godmother to lots of goddoggies. My mother has three, a chihuahua, a min-pin and an Italian greyhound who make perfect models when we’re working on our new styles. They are wonderful Ruby Rufus ambassadors. My mom says she has to keep a supply of Ruby Rufus business cards in her pockets for all the times she is stopped with people wanting to know “where on earth can I find a sweater like that for my dog?”
Why do you think pets are so popular on the internet?
It’s become part of our culture to share everything about either ourselves or our pets – I follow many pets on Instagram. It’s so cute to see these adorable little animals’ daily lives, seeing them happy, or grumpy, or tired, or doing something silly. I’ve become good friends with the famous Tuna Melts My Heart’s mum. It is lovely to see her sharing a picture each day of Tuna, something that just makes me smile. Tuna and his mum have given a voice to the underdog and are also a huge advocates for animal rescue and adopting the “little guy who might not be as cute as the rest but has a heart of gold”. The many, many letters she receives every day, from all over the world, thanking her and Tuna for showing that beauty comes from inside is really wonderful!