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Bernie Alfonso Leytte: Responsible Dog Fashion, High End Couture

Updated on July 20, 2014
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Mona writes a column for Enrich Magazine which is distributed in five countries. She is interested in learning as she writes.

Magazine Cover

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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

Date of issue when my article came out. You can see Cesar Milan's eyebrows. He was the cover story for this issue, as he had recently visited the Philippines.
Date of issue when my article came out. You can see Cesar Milan's eyebrows. He was the cover story for this issue, as he had recently visited the Philippines. | Source

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.

Page 1 of My Article

First page of my article on responsible dog fashion. The photo shows a chihuahua wearing a fabulous gown. Just one of Bernie Alfonso Leytte's dog clothes designs.
First page of my article on responsible dog fashion. The photo shows a chihuahua wearing a fabulous gown. Just one of Bernie Alfonso Leytte's dog clothes designs. | Source

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.

Page 2 of my article

Page 2 of my article on responsible dog fashion and dog couture. You can see Bernie Alfonso Leytte posing with some of her dog clothes.
Page 2 of my article on responsible dog fashion and dog couture. You can see Bernie Alfonso Leytte posing with some of her dog clothes. | Source

Big Bling

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

This evening wear dress has a very long train made of taffeta and lace in shades of midnight blue, with ruching and heart designs highlighted with hand sewn sequins. She has long bell sleeves and a wide semi Queen Elizabeth collar.
This evening wear dress has a very long train made of taffeta and lace in shades of midnight blue, with ruching and heart designs highlighted with hand sewn sequins. She has long bell sleeves and a wide semi Queen Elizabeth collar. | Source

Corporate Vision

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.

Large bow in darkest grape hue, skirt of fine organza in a Rising Smoke hue with rows of hand-sewn sequins. Semi long train.
Large bow in darkest grape hue, skirt of fine organza in a Rising Smoke hue with rows of hand-sewn sequins. Semi long train. | Source

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

The dog wears a brown velvet top with gold trim and bling on the neckline, plus a drop skirt with gold trim tied in a lacy bow of olive brown with a red undertone. The gravel toned lacy skirt with black flowers and brown carpels drapes gracefully.
The dog wears a brown velvet top with gold trim and bling on the neckline, plus a drop skirt with gold trim tied in a lacy bow of olive brown with a red undertone. The gravel toned lacy skirt with black flowers and brown carpels drapes gracefully. | Source

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.

This lovely dog has a diaphanous lacy collar with a subtle touch of bling, followed by a black ribbed waistline and playful candy colored belt design, plus a ruched, brown, white and black designed skirt train that is playfully curved in, for now.
This lovely dog has a diaphanous lacy collar with a subtle touch of bling, followed by a black ribbed waistline and playful candy colored belt design, plus a ruched, brown, white and black designed skirt train that is playfully curved in, for now. | Source

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

Red and black is always a ravishing combination, more so with this flouncy black silk bow tying in the strong red color with the beautiful black curve print design. This dog is ready for the flamenco.
Red and black is always a ravishing combination, more so with this flouncy black silk bow tying in the strong red color with the beautiful black curve print design. This dog is ready for the flamenco. | Source

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

The dog in pink had her own chair, to the right of the dog in blue. But she wasn't content with just one photo. She moved onto the next seat so that she could pose for more photographs.
The dog in pink had her own chair, to the right of the dog in blue. But she wasn't content with just one photo. She moved onto the next seat so that she could pose for more photographs. | Source

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

This pretty young girl models a gown that matches the gown of the dog, and she does a wonderful job:)
This pretty young girl models a gown that matches the gown of the dog, and she does a wonderful job:) | Source

Seasonal Demands

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 with a chihuahua wearing one of her creations. More creations can be seen in the rack behind her.
Bernie with a chihuahua wearing one of her creations. More creations can be seen in the rack behind her. | Source

Bernie's Outlets

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 doodlespawcouture@yahoo.com. Her Twitter account is @msbernieDPC.

Dog Love

Seated L-R Bernie Leytte and the author. Back row, L-R, Bernie's husband Mr.; Leytte, Joya Gonzalez of Domino Haus (which does dog events in leading malls) and my husband, Ed Gonzalez.
Seated L-R Bernie Leytte and the author. Back row, L-R, Bernie's husband Mr.; Leytte, Joya Gonzalez of Domino Haus (which does dog events in leading malls) and my husband, Ed Gonzalez. | Source

Mushroom for Doodles Paw Couture 2

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    • grand old lady profile image
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      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 2 years ago from Philippines

      Hello Lady Fiddler, the idea of dressing a teddy bear sounds like a good idea, too! Thanks for the visit.

    • LadyFiddler profile image

      Joanna Chandler 2 years ago from On planet Earth

      Pleasant good morning Grand old lady well this hub seems interesting although i am not a dog person especially chihuahua i find they are ugly lol. The idea is cool though because i buy baby clothes for my teddy bear so i can relate to dressing a dog " a living creature".

      Thanks for sharing have a swell week :)

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 2 years ago from Philippines

      Thanks AnnAZ12, I appreciate your honesty and open mindedness. It is troublesome to dress a dog. I have to dress mine in public because they wear diapers, so it's to complete the concept. It spares me from having to deal with embarrassing messes in public. But their clothes are not as elaborate either:). However, it would be fun to dress up a dog for a formal occasion, I think.

    • Ann1Az2 profile image

      Ann1Az2 2 years ago from Orange, Texas

      I'm afraid I'm with Bill on this one - dressing up dogs is not my bag. I used to try when I was a kid, but never had much luck with it. Still, I enjoyed your hub very much. Very elaborate costumes!

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 2 years ago from Philippines

      Hi Nell,

      Thank you for visiting and enjoying this story. Yes, Joya's dogs (all 40 of them) love being show dogs. They are so disciplined and cute, and walking the ramp is like play for them. That tiny dog that wanted an extra shot was so adorable. You would have been very impressed when they waited patiently for one hour, not one bark, waiting for the interview to be finished before they were dressed for the photo shoot. Dogs are truly flexible and all they really want is to know what they should do, and they want to do it well. Again, thank you for stopping by and reading.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 2 years ago from England

      Hi, I loved this! how fascinating! and especially the bit about how the dogs love doing it, in fact one pushed the other one off the chair to join in! lol! great read, thanks!

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 2 years ago from Philippines

      Frank Atanacio, I'm glad you were entertained. Dogs are always pleasing and loving, and dressing them up is delightful when you know the dog enjoys it as much as you do. My dog Mocha Barney gets all excited when I dress her up, because she knows it means she'll be going to the park.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 2 years ago from Shelton

      what a great hub, different for me but I was certainly entertained :)

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 2 years ago from Philippines

      Thank you Mel Carriere,

      I was rolf laughing at the thought of a chihuahua in a taffeta gown running after you. But it's true, it might trip over its chain and in this way your life is saved. Thank you for stopping by.

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 2 years ago from San Diego California

      Back in my day dogs used to roll around in the mud quite merrily, now we are dressing them up in taffeta gowns? Today a Chihuahua tried to bite me on the ankle, maybe putting him in stunning evening apparel might have made him a little bit less of a brute. Anyhow, it looks like these entrepreneurs have found a niche so good for them. I really did enjoy your doggy fashion show and congratulations on your article.

    • grand old lady profile image
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      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 2 years ago from Philippines

      FlourishAnyway, Lol, that is so funny, but it's true, it would be interesting to see what Halloween costumes she could come up with.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

      Those dogs are decked out. I'd love to see what she can do with a Halloween costume!

    • grand old lady profile image
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      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 2 years ago from Philippines

      Thank you Travmaj. It's always wonderful to find the true inspiration behind something that may seem trivial at first glance. I also found it funny that as Bernie was confined to her bed longer and longer, the dog trains also became longer and the hand sewn beads became more extravagant. Talk about making something beautiful out of an illness that you refuse to get you down:). I'm glad that you find the dogs cute. I found their personalities adorable, and I was so amazed at how transformed they became when they were dressed up. Dogs love their jobs, no matter what job you give them.

    • travmaj profile image

      travmaj 2 years ago from australia

      This is certainly an inspirational story and such determination. Being seriously ill and building up an empire is rarely an option. I commend that. I'm not really into dressing dogs up - my dog has a warm winter jacket. She wouldn't tolerate a ball gown. But the little dogs sure look cute.

    • grand old lady profile image
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      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 2 years ago from Philippines

      Thank you literal. Yes, chihuahuas are adorable and look very cute in dog clothes. You're lucky that you get to watch over your daughter's dog. Pets can add life and laughter to a home.

    • literal profile image

      literal 2 years ago from Aotearoa

      So cute, I look after my daughters chihuahua she has a little pink vest. I sewed some embellishment on it - it just glam blingy look.

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 2 years ago from Philippines

      Ms. Dora, I'm glad you found Bernie's story inspiring. I personally felt the same inspiration, that when she was at her weakest, she worked her strongest and evolved a lifestyle full of passion and stress free from the rigors of international banking. Life is full of surprises, and her story shows that there is no time when a person is ever really fully down.

      quildon, one thing Bernie advises in her speeches on dog care responsibility, is never let the dogs wear the dresses for more than an hour or two. I think it's good advice. My dog gets excited when dressing up as she knows she's going to a mall. Many malls in the Philippines aren't pet friendly, so we put a diaper on Mocha and to make it less obvious, we add a dress. But she removes the dress as soon as we get home.

    • quildon profile image

      Angela Joseph 2 years ago from Florida

      I thoroughly enjoyed this article. The dogs are so cute, and Bernie has proven that illness doesn't have to stifle our creativity. We have never dressed up our dogs though. The most we ever did was put a bow on our little Lhaso Apso when we took her to the vet, but she took it off in less than half an hour.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

      Another inspirational story. Who knows where passion would lead you? The dogs are adorable. It must be fun dressing them up. Thanks for a good read.

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 2 years ago from Philippines

      SuzetteNaples, thank you for your kind words. It's true, clothing for dogs should be practical, but for them to wear long gowns would probably involve either the lifestyle of the dog owner (perhaps, a dog loving socialite?) Or a businesswoman (Such as Joya of Domino Haus whose dogs are professional models). I dress up my dogs too, but only in basic clothes. This is because in malls they must wear a diaper to prevent a mess, and I add the clothes to complete the costume. If my dog had a long train gown, I wouldn't know where to let her wear it, as I don't frequent long gown events. Thanks for visiting and commenting:).

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 2 years ago from Taos, NM

      What a hoot! These dog dresses, coats etc are wonderful. I guess I never think of dressing a dog. I can see a sweater for outside when it is cold, but to actually wear a dress, that is something. I am glad they have made a business out of it and are earning money from it. That is wonderful. I love some of the dresses the dogs are wearing. How cute and this is such an interesting and informative article.

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 2 years ago from Philippines

      DDE, I can see the impractical side of it. My dogs don't have any formal occasions to go to that would merit this kind of bling, and they would definitely outdo me. As an old lady with no grandchildren, I would liken dressing up dogs to dressing up the baby they never had. Thank you for stopping by and reading, and for finding the dogs to be cute. Yes, there is nothing like a cute dog:).

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Dressing up dogs not something that I would do. These dogs look cute and a trend for sure.

    • grand old lady profile image
      Author

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 2 years ago from Philippines

      Thanks DrMark1861. They dress better than me, too. BTW, are you a real veterinarian? If so, I would like to ask you a few questions for an article I'm doing for a publication in the Philippines. I would send you the questions via email, and you could answer them. The topic is about adopting an older dog. I hope you will seriously consider my request. Thank you, Mona

      Billybuc, I'm not surprised that it's not for you:). But I love how you can appreciate the good things even in their differences. Thank you for visiting and reading.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Well, it's not for me, but it goes to show one can make it big with the right idea and determination. Great article my friend.

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 2 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      What a great article. Those dogs dress better than I do!

      Thanks, I enjoyed this.

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