For a brand initially started as a ‘hobby’, LoveMyDog as become somewhat of a full-time profession for Lilly and her team. Their beautifully crafted products have a loyal army of followers and are now stocked in some of the most prestigious stores across the globe. Upon closer inspection, it’s not hard to see why.
I arrived at the LoveMyDog studio in Hoxton on a drizzly summer day (aren’t they all now?) to talk canine couture with Creative Director Lilly Shahravesh and the brand’s muse, Norfolk Terrier cross Jack Russell – Rabbit. I immediately recognised it tucked away in the East London mews by the small doggy-safe door in the entrance. Lilly popped her head out to let me in looking effortless (as opposed to my slight sogginess) in a checked A.P.C shirt, navy Margaret Howell trousers and Toast brogues. While she puts on a brew, we talk dogs, rabbits (couldn’t resist getting a picture of mine out) and fair-weather cycling.
Humans to Hounds – Where it all began…….
‘Designer for Dogs’ is not always the first thing that comes to mind when planning a future career, but Lilly’s foray into the designer dog world sort of happened by accident. Having studied textile design at University, Lilly started her career in the fashion industry but it didn’t allow her the creative license she’s hoped for. ‘I found fashion too restrictive’ she said. The idea for the brand came when her sister suddenly became the proud owner of a half Chihuahua half Miniature Pincher called Missy. ‘My sister went to the shop for groceries one day and came back with a dog. At the time she was in living in Portugal with her boyfriend and they didn’t have any kids so the dog was their baby.’
As a doting new Aunty with a keen eye for design, Lilly was constantly on the hunt for stylish gifts for Missy. ‘I was always looking for things for the dog but I could never find anything that was well designed and good quality’ she says. Using her knack for design and textiles, Lilly turned her hand to making some one-off items for Missy. ‘It started out as a hobby really. I would make things for friends’ she says. The popularity of the designs and the obvious gap in the market led Lilly to embark on over a year’s worth of research, and in 2003 LoveMyDog was born.
So what it is about LoveMyDog that makes people and dogs……well…..love it? For Lilly it’s the true design heritage of the brand and the unashamedly luxurious materials. ‘Almost all our products are hand-cut and made in England’ says Lilly. It’s not hard to see the time and care taken with every detail from the Italian leather straps on the carriers to the pockets, buttons and linings. It’s all meticulously planned for style, comfort and durability.
The design process normally starts with the fabric. Lilly’s textiles background is evident in the studio which is awash with their Harris Tweeds in ‘Appleby’, ‘Pixley’ and ‘Thornby’, Liberty print in Amberley and their ‘Spencer’ Corduroy. Harris Tweed is used heavily throughout the collection from dog coats, to beds and even deerstalker caps (which have been a surprise hit!), giving the products a softness and warmth whilst also being hard-wearing. No corners are cut here and planning ahead is important. ‘It can take up to six months for a delivery of Harris Tweed because it’s still handwoven in the Outer Hebrides by the same families that have been doing it for generations,’ explains Lilly.
Colour is equally as fundamental in the design process. ‘I think very carefully about the colours we choose. It’s really important to imagine how it will look against the dogs own colouring. Some shades just won’t suit certain dogs’ says Lilly. Interestingly, the colours, styles and fabrics that seem to be most popular are the one’s which people can see on themselves. ‘We are seeing a definite trend towards to humanising of pets and people tend to be drawn to things they’d like to wear themselves. We will definitely be exploring that idea further’ she reveals.
The walls of the Hoxton studio are plastered with images, cuttings and fabric samples, some of which Lilly has kept for years. The inspiration for the collection is normally born from the fabrics themselves but can come from plenty of surprising sources explains Lilly. ‘The inspiration for the Elwin coats came from a Velasquez exhibition that I loved and the Rivington Coat was inspired by Prince William’s RAF uniform’ she says, pointing to the clippings pinned to the wall.
With the tweeds, Liberty prints and corduroy’s, the brand has an undeniably ‘British’ feel. Being Iranian and growing up in London, Lilly has definitely found herself inspired by British style. ‘To me England seems exotic and the collection definitely reflects that’ she says. As an East London resident herself, Lilly has used the area as a source of inspiration like the ‘Rivington’ Collection or the ‘Hoxton’ tartan which was designed in-house by Lilly and her team and is completely unique to the brand. ‘Most of the products are named after streets in East London because I’ve always lived here’ she says.
One of the biggest challenges but most enjoyable parts of the job for Lilly and her team is taking fashion trends and adapting them to shapes and cuts which work for a dog. ‘I work with Lesley Ann my pattern cutter who does the most amazing job of taking a concept and playing around with it until it works. Some of the detailing can be quite difficult to achieve on something as small as a dog coat, but we find ways of doing it’ says Lilly.
Where to next?
So how does the UK compare when it comes to pet style? ‘We are still quite sensible here. We focus more on practicality. In Asia they are definitely much more literal. They have full outfits for dogs and push them around in prams. The UK is not at that stage yet. Who knows where things will go though,’ she says. Watch this space…………..
QUICK-FIRE QUESTIONS – RABBIT
Having sat patiently for over an hour, it was now time to turn the spotlight on Rabbit as he jumped straight up onto Lilly’s lap for his 15 minutes:
What is the best thing about being a fashion muse?
I get a whole new wardrobe every season! I also get to try on all the clothes. To be honest, it’s exhausting.
What is your must-have item from the current Lovemydog collection?
The Elwin Quilted Raincoat due to the crumby weather this Summer
What’s your best feature?
My aroma. Honestly, they should bottle it.
Tell us your favourite places in London?
I love the Pavillion cafe in Victoria Park and the Pitfield Cafe in Shoreditch
What’s your worst habit?
Rubbing my bottom on peoples legs.
Just as we wrapped things up, the rain really started to come down. A self-confessed ‘fair-weather cyclist’, Lilly said she would ordinarily ride to the studio from her home in Bethnal Green with Rabbit in the basket but hadn’t braved it today. ‘He has ideas of grandeur when he’s up there’ she says. Looks like Rabbit would save himself from the ‘drowned rat’ look that dogs so hate and it would just me riding home with a wet bum today.
The LoveMyDog collection starts at £25 for collars up to £300 for large beds. Lovemydog dog coats range from £45 up to £150 for larger dogs. For those dogs with very particular taste, Lilly also offers a bespoke service where the options are limitless. Bespoke starts at £1,000.
The Lovemydog range is available online at www.lovemydog.co.uk and in selected retailers globally.