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Fashionable canines strut their stuff on Japanese catwalk

THE GLITTERATI of the fashion world gathered in Japan last week to gawp at one of many beautiful models mincing along the catwalk wearing the latest turquoise designer dress. But this was no ordinary catwalk show: the model was a white poodle, one of 20 dogs making their catwalk debut in Japan's first ‘ human-canine’ fashion show.

The dog industry is booming in Japan. The Japanese economy as a whole may be sluggish but the fast-expanding pet industry hasn’t noticed any slowdown; it is worth more than a trillion yen (£4.7bn) a year. The number of dogs owned in Japan has doubled to more than 13 million in the past decade – there are now fewer children under 12 in Japan than there are dogs. From dog yoga classes and dog sunglasses to dog gourmet restaurants and dog aromatherapy spas, there are few aspects of human life that have not been extended to include canines.

So it was inevitable that after similar events in the USA, where ‘designer dogs’ and designer dog gear is lauded on the East and West Coasts, that Japan would host its own canine fashion extravaganza, the New Year Dog Party, which attracted crowds of up to 20,000 dog-lovers.
More than 60 companies exhibited their merchandise and services, ranging from dog spa baths to yoga classes.

Kumi Shiraishi, the organiser of the event was clearly delighted at the turnout and told the assembled press: ‘One in five families has a dog in Japan and they are treated not like pets, but like part of the family,’

‘As our population is declining, fewer women are having babies, more people are working and many people feel lonely. As a result, a pet dog is the perfect companion. Sooner or later, the number of pet dogs will be higher than the number of children. That is how much Japan loves its dogs.’

The highlight of the event was the fashion show, organised by the company behind New York's Pet Fashion Week. Photographers jostled for space at the end of the catwalk as a stream of human models brought dogs on to the catwalk while sporting co-ordinated outfits created by international designers.

Centre stage were Greyhounds in Rasta hats, Poodles in polka-dot dresses and Shih-Tzus in studded biker jackets. But the pièce de résistance was a £10,000 Swarovski crystal-studded dog coat being modelled by a Dachshund, created by the canine fashion designer Manfred of Sweden.
‘The Japanese see dogs as their children and so it is natural they want to give their dogs the very best,’ said Menfred’s Bjorn Gardsby, whose jewel-clad creations have been sold to celebrities including the singer Robbie Williams and the writer Amy Tan.