A canine couture collaboration between Southern Cross Pet Insurance and an international designer-to-the-stars is helping dogs stay both stylish and safe.
Aotearoa is a nation of pet lovers. Over 60% of New Zealand households have pets, giving us the second-highest pet ownership rate in the world. And because of our penchant for furry friends, the pet clothes market – from gimmicky teddy bear costumes to practical vests to matching pet/owner jackets – is expansive.
Even those wanting to style their pets in high fashion looks have options. Italian fashion label Prada has raincoats, leashes and bags for dogs made out of nylon, one of its signature materials. Ralph Lauren, an icon of American fashion, sells its famous polo shirt in dog sizes too, while Versace sells black leather collars, harnesses and leads studded with its trademark Medusa logo in gold.
But New Zealand-based pet insurer Southern Cross Pet Insurance (SCPI) realised there was one missed opportunity with many of the designs that are currently in market: they weren’t designed with pet safety in mind. So they teamed up with global fashion designer Matthew Adams Dolan to make their own.
“VIS – The Road Safety Collection”, made up of eight couture items and a range of bandanas, raises the visibility of pets without sacrificing style. “We’d much rather help prevent beloved pets needing care with top-notch protective gear, than have to treat a painful injury,” says SCPI general manager Anthony McPhail.
As part of its mission to help pets lead happier, healthier, longer lives, the insurer wanted a fun way to show pet parents the importance of keeping their furry loved ones safe while out walking. “Some very lucky and very safe pooches are certainly going to be turning heads on their evening walks this winter,” McPhail says.
The lemon yellow “dino motif vest” has bow ties cascading down its back in a whimsical homage to the armoured reptiles that once roamed the earth, and is a standout in this collection.
If your pooch is an office-lover, the “reflec shirt” with buttons and a collar, makes the perfect work shirt, a true day-to-night look that your professional pup could take from the boardroom to the dog park.
And the cable knitting details on the “glow detail jumper” elevates the winter staple from classic to classy.
The whole line is “capital F” fashion, which makes sense, given designer Dolan has dressed Rihanna and Lady Gaga in his signature bold outfits. Checking in from Italy, the designer says he wanted to produce a collection that was “tongue-in-cheek” yet fully focused on safety.
Hundreds of pets are killed or injured around New Zealand roads each year – SCPI received 186 claims for injured pets in 2021, split evenly between cats and dogs – so pet road safety is an area of concern for SCPI.
Reflective bandanas are the collection’s centrepiece, an entry-level product that pops up in different places in the collection, such as on the backs of the vest and the “look out” trench coat.
Dolan’s own Lakeland terrier, Maisie, served as design inspiration – and an ideal fit model. “Her reaction to wearing any kind of clothes was to basically freeze,” he laughs. “It made the process easy because she wouldn’t move.”
Hi-vis clothing is the obvious go-to for safety wear, but Dolan wanted to design items beyond the traffic cone orange or highlighter yellow hues typically seen on safety equipment. That led him to more fashion-forward fabrics and hues like candy magentas, cool violets, office greys and pale greens. While each piece is striking during daytime hours, after dark the tones really, literally, shine.
The greys and greens glow like radiation when hit with headlights or flickering bike lights. The candy magenta glitters and the cool violets shimmer thanks to their holographic material, and light also bounces off the jumpers, which are knitted from wool mixed with reflective yarn.
The VIS collection is Dolan’s first foray into pet wear. It wasn’t much different to designing for humans, he says – but there were some differences in the varieties of different sizings that needed to be made. He had to approach function a bit differently too: “You need to make sure there’s nothing in the crotch area,” he says, “so if they’re going to pee, there’s nothing [getting in the way]”. And because the pieces are designed for the outdoors, durability is important – the designer recommends wiping away dirt and mud with a wet cloth to keep them looking as new, and most importantly, as reflective as possible.
The best fashion lasts a long time, functions well and makes others turn their heads. Whether it’s during the day or after hours, the VIS collection is intentionally hard to miss. Now fashion-conscious dog owners don’t have to compromise on style for the safety of their four-legged friends.