Fashionable dogs have mostly been the privilege of trendy jet setters and the slightly barking-mad wealthy.This content was published on February 3, 2004 - 18:15
But now the Zurich and Geneva branches of the low-priced retailer H&M are offering those of more modest means the chance to pamper their pooches.
They are stocking a line of 1950s-inspired clothes and accessories for the dog about town.
Far from being a gimmick the idea is a response to what is a general trend in fashion at the moment, according to H&M showroom manager Sylvia Simon.
But she admits that the collection is unlikely to become a permanent feature.
“We are still a fashion company making clothes for human beings and the only reason we decided to do this collection is because the Fifties are very fashionable right now,” she told swissinfo.
“The concept is a serious commercial proposition but as yet there are no plans to extend it beyond the one season.”
While sceptics may label the collection as simply a good old-fashioned piece of marketing designed to boost H&M sales, Simon insists the line of clothes and accessories are also of practical benefit for small dogs.
“Sometimes I see small dogs outside in bad weather, and they are freezing or shaking,” she said.
“This collection is aimed at exactly those small dogs such as Yorkshire Terriers and Chihuahuas, which have thinner coats and tend to get colder more quickly.”
Owners can now keep their faithful friends warm and dry thanks to the top-of-the-range red raincoat for the female or black nylon jacket for the male.
And customers will not have to dig very deep into their pockets to afford the latest line in “dog wear”.
At just under SFr25 ($20) the raincoat and jacket are the most expensive garments in the collection.
And just in case your dog is suffering from an identity crisis, the back of the jacket is helpfully emblazoned with the word “doggy”.
Cotton sweaters – red with white polka dots or grey with a hood - cost less than SFr15, and accessories include a red diamanté or black studded collar – again depending on the sex of your dog.
For owners who want to spare their friend the use of his legs, there is the handy padded bag with a special hole for the head so that “Fido” can still see what is going on in the world from an elevated position.
But not everyone is enthusiastic about H&M’s latest sales venture.
Claudia Mertens, a specialist in animal behaviour, thinks anyone intending to buy clothes for their pet needs to reassess how they perceive the needs of animals.
“In my opinion it’s absurd, even a scandal and maybe an abuse of animals,” she told swissinfo.
“By law animals are no longer objects, and if you try to dress them up you are completely misunderstanding them by mistaking them for people or an accessory.”
While Mertens admits that the modern-day domestic dog is far removed from its wild ancestry, she insists that it is still first and foremost an animal and needs to be treated as such.
“Even the smallest dogs think like a wolf for most of the time, and a dog is a species with specific needs, which partly match those of a person – but only partly,” she said.
“Those needs include the chance to run around, to interact with other dogs and to have the opportunity to sniff around – not to be dressed.”
swissinfo, Jonathan Summerton
H&M’s stores in Zurich and Geneva are offering a range of low-priced clothes and accessories for dogs as part of their winter collection.
In-house designers took their inspiration from 1950s fashion and the success of the 2001 Hollywood film “Legally Blonde”.
As yet there are no plans to extend the collection beyond this season.
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