ON A RECENT sunny day, a French bulldog named Hector took a walk with his owner to a café near their home in Los Angeles. As usual, Hector wore his $380 French leather “Dorró” collar and $520 “Tascher” leash, both in beige. That day he left his $680 “Colombo” harness at home, although it’s one of his favorites. All are made by Pagerie, the high-end dog accessories company launched by his owner, Mandy Madden Kelley, a lawyer turned fashion influencer turned entrepreneur. According to Ms. Madden Kelley, a neighbor walking a cat (this was Los Angeles, after all) stopped and asked where Hector’s accessories came from. “It literally looks like it’s Hermès or something,” the admirer said.
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For Ms. Madden Kelley—a New Zealander who blogs about motherhood, beauty and, yes, dogs—it was a gratifying moment. “I felt so proud to say that it’s a brand I launched,” she remembers. Pagerie, which she bills as “the first ultra-luxury fashion house for pets,” debuted its e-commerce site during the pandemic accompanied by imagery featuring models dressed in neutral tones walking disarmingly chic Weimaraners. Its pared-back look stands in contrast to much of the pet-fashion world, which veers toward the cutesy and the ornamental—like the French bulldog I spotted on Instagram wearing an “I am the lost Kardashian” T-shirt and clutching a tiny fake-fur pink purse.
Ms. Madden Kelley got the idea for her business when she moved to America in 2014 and began attending fashion week. At shows and events, she witnessed stylish women dressed to the nines in Chanel and Dior, but accompanied by dogs in far-less-polished plastic outfits. “I felt like there was such a disconnect between the way they represented themselves and what their pets were wearing,” she said.
Luxury pet accessories are not unprecedented. Hermès, Goyard,
and Dior all make leashes and collars; some offer more substantial accessories like dog beds. Goyard leashes and collars, in particular, are the ne plus ultra for pet-owning fashionistas in the most status-conscious corners of Paris, New York and Tokyo. But Ms. Madden Kelley was after something a bit more considered, that took into account a dog’s form the way her design heroes Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Hans Wegner molded chairs around the human form.
When you buy a Pagerie accessory, it arrives—like a luxury handbag—ready for its YouTube unboxing video. The substantial beige box resembles a drawer within a compartment, pulling out to reveal the item encased in a cotton dust bag. Each purchase comes with a metal card verifying its authenticity, perhaps anticipating a scenario where the brand becomes so coveted its wares would be copied. Thoughtful details abound; attached to a leash is a tiny case for poop bags.
These are accessories that help your dog tastefully blend into your highly curated lifestyle. They make sense for the growing number of Instagram aesthetes who favor a neutral palette, worship mid-century design and aspire to dress in minimal clothing from brands like Totême and the Row.
May Wong, who is a co-founder of the British Instagram dog-culture account @dogbrief, sees Pagerie as part of a fairly recent move toward more tasteful dog-accessory brands. “Now they all talk about quality. They talk about hand-stitching,” she explained. But when she first became interested in dogs about 10 years ago, she said “everything was too brightly colored, plastic and tacky.” A writer and interior designer by trade, Ms. Wong wanted something a bit more soigné. As she said, “It’s a reflection on self. You want to build an image of how you want people to perceive you.” She also approves of Moncler’s popular dog puffers and the British line Mungo & Maud, which makes braided-leather collars and cashmere dog sweaters. Ms. Wong has even crafted her own Barbour-ish coats for her dogs.
Dog accessories must do more than look good. A feature titled “The Dog Mode of Vogue” in a 1936 issue of the fashion magazine reads, “The selection of the proper collars, leads and other personal accessories for your dog is not merely dependent on a particular color scheme. The dog’s comfort, convenience and the utility of the accessory all must be taken into consideration.”
Ben Bennett, who owns a beauty-brand incubator in Los Angeles, had never considered buying expensive accessories for his “rough-and-tumble” French bulldog until he discovered Pagerie. However, he said that his philosophy is to “buy things that are real quality and made with great materials”—that, in other words, will not need to be replaced all too soon. To his mind, the Pagerie collar, leash and harness he bought were worth the price and withstand his dog’s slobbering and rambunctiousness. He particularly liked the collar’s turn lock, which helps it to snap on and off easily.
Spend enough time talking to dog people and eventually they will compare their pets to children. If you’re a canine lover, you want to pamper your pet as you would a baby. As Ms. Madden Kelley explained, “We really treat them like our kids, so that’s kind of the inspiration behind Pagerie and what got me going.” And Ms. Wong asked, “I mean, would you dress your child poorly?”
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