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Bernie Alfonso Leytte: Responsible Dog Fashion, High End Couture
Doodles Paw Couture With Marm Bernie
Not every dog lover is an advocate of dog fashion. Neither does it follow that a dog owner who buys clothes for their dog is a neglectful pet owner. Definitely, that wasn’t the case with Bernie (owner of Doodles Paw Couture, SM, Marikina), a former bank employee with an international bank where, within 10 years she rose to become Senior Manager. Her husband, Chris, worked in a competing bank as an assistant manager.
The Leyttes are pet lovers who own seven dogs. One day they brought their Chihuahua x mini pinscher mixed dog with them overseas. The weather was cold, and Bernie was shocked at how expensive dog sweaters were. Instead she bought a bonnet, cut holes in it, and refashioned it into a useful sweater for her dog.
Date of Issue, Cesar Milan's eyebrows
Filling a Niche
That was Bernie’s first dog “couture” outfit. It was 2006, and she and her husband decided to invest in a part time business – dog fashion, so that they would have an outlet for their passion.
“At that time only foreign labels were being sold in the Philippines for dogs,” Bernie said. This was a niche she could easily fill – quality dog fashion clothes that would outdo foreign competitors at affordable prices.
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Bernie is Afflicted With Serious Illness
Bernie never dreamed that one day her passion would be her savior. She was struck with a debilitating illness in 2010 which kept her in bed for an extended period of time. The doctors said she would never walk again, but today Bernie is walking just fine. She said her husband was her support system as she underwent special therapy to get back into shape.
With children to feed, the Leyttes were forced to give away most of their 40 dogs. Because they are part of a dog loving community, Bernie found comfort in knowing her pets were going to loving homes.
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Being in bed also gave her more time to think about her dog fashion company, Doodles Paw Couture. She began to design more clothes for dogs, and the longer she was in bed, the more flamboyant the clothes became. There were long trains, fancy dog gowns using fabrics like taffeta and organza (among others), and lots of hand-sewn bling.
She even made matching dog gowns for owners and their dogs. Her husband did the legwork, contacting malls that sponsored dog fashion shows, and meeting with dog store owners with whom they could supply local dog clothes at reasonable prices.
Chihuahua in Midnight Blue
Bernie also devised the corporate vision for their company. She advocated corporate responsibility on four levels. The first level was responsible dog ownership, which required comfortable clothes that are safe and comfortable for the dogs. For example, when she designed superhero dog clothes, she noticed that the cape had to be sewn to the garment, because if it was just tied around the dog’s neck, the dog might choke.
Bernie is a public speaker, specializing on best practices for pet wear. She talks about how dog temperament differs with each dog. Not all dogs are suited for clothes, and if they are, they shouldn’t wear clothes all day. She also talks about responsible aesthetics for dog clothing.
Empowering home based housewives
The second level of corporate responsibility involves empowering stay-at-home housewives. These are her only employees. She provides them with a sewing machine so that they can earn money while keeping an eye on their children.
The third level is education. Bernie has a scholarship fund and to date, they have funded eight scholars through college. Now equipped with degrees, these scholars can level up on their professional options.
Beautiful Boston Terrier in Brown
An Award Winning Brand
The fourth level of corporate responsibility is keeping watch over her carbon footprint. Bernie never uses plastic to cover her dog clothes, nor to sell them. This is how she shows respect to nature.
Doodles Paw Couture won the Top Brand Award Philippines 2012 for the category, Pet Apparel Shop of the year. Doodles Paw Couture has an outlet at the 2nd floor of SM, Marikina City. They have also been approached about opening an additional three more branches.
Don’t judge bling by its shine
So when you see Bernie’s clothes on dogs in the mall, replete with hand sewn beading and elaborate trains made of lovely fabrics in delightful colors, try to remember that you shouldn’t judge bling by its shine.
Dogs are happiest when they know what their masters require of them. Such is obviously the case with the dogs of Joya Gonzalez, owner of Domino Haus, which conducts many dog events at leading malls nationwide.
Ravishing in Red and Black
Dogs Light Up When They Have a Job to Do
While I was interviewing Bernie, 14 of Joya’s 40 dogs were waiting quietly, each in its own chair. These dogs have joined dog competitions, modeled in dog fashion shows, grew up in malls entertaining Juan de la Cruz and his family, and appear in TV and print commercials for dog products. They know how to wait quietly and happily. Joya is a Filipina dog whisperer and her dogs are her best evidence. Domino Haus is currently engaged in using dogs as therapy for sick people, but then, that’s another dog story.
When it was time to dress up the dogs, I literally saw Joya’s dogs light up. As I photographed each dog, sometimes the next dog would look at me meaningfully, eager for her turn. One dog was not content with one shoot. She nudged the dog next to her and moved onto her chair so the two dogs could pose together. It was very charming.
Scoot Over, Please
Christmas is Top Selling Season
Another dog was still undressed when I finished my shoot. I talked to Bernie about sundry things, then suddenly I noticed the dog, now fully dressed, had stretched its neck as far as possible in my direction, as if calling me. I was totally captivated and began snapping her immediately.
Bernie says that Christmas is the biggest selling season for dog couture. That’s when dog owners want full bling, satin, lace, et. al; and hand applied beads and sequins.
Matching outfits for Christmas
In the summertime sport clothes (Lakers tees, Chicago bull tees, etc.) are in demand. Bernie uses thin, airy fabric. She also makes board shorts and bikinis. Some tees, I noticed, were the same fabric that is used with some golf shirts that people wear. This fabric is popular with sports because it wicks the sweat off the body. During the rainy season Bernie makes hoodies and jackets.
Bernie also gets special requests. For a wedding she was asked to do matching gowns for six dogs. On other occasions owners want to wear matching outfits with their dogs.
Dress Me Up Before you Go Go
Bernie plans to enlarge her business to include affordable formal gowns for people. Judging from her creative and inventive dog clothes, we anticipate her gowns with interest. If they are affordably priced, we (and many others, we are certain), will be most pleased, as many people in desperate need of formal wear (on a budget) often look to ukay-ukay (second hand) stores. Purchasing a brand new gown on a limited budget is, for a human buyer, an empowering experience.
Bernie supplies clothes for many dog outlets (using their label). She also has her own boutique at SM Marikina, second level. You can contact Bernie at 0922-815-8864; or write her at email@example.com. Her Twitter account is @msbernieDPC.