Here’s our Q & A with New York-based Pet Fashion designer Ninoksa VIggiano. She’s the designer whose outfit won its category in the New York Pet Fashion Show this past February. It was one of the most photographed headdresses of the year – created in designs for both human and canine. Viggiano’s concept was based on the Russian Sarafan and Kosnoik traditional costumes. The event was covered worldwide.

Tell us about yourself?

I am a couture pet designer making unique dresses and hats for dog fashionistas.

How has your involvement in the jewelry industry helped you in producing your creations?

The jewelry industry has help me transition into the pet market because the background acquired in dealing with gems translated into selling magic and romance to the customers. Using jewelry is a millenary custom in which cultures are involved as a mean of human expression.

How so?

If my fixation is pearls, my dog may wear a pearl collar or even a shirt representing a sport or team. When a dog is dressed in a vest and tie, we are selling fantasy and entertainment – because we are used to thinking that dogs’ don’t wear apparel. People dress their dogs to reflect their particular taste, ethnic background and political views. The jewelry industry conveys the use of colour and history of the gems it represents, which helps me to understand my clientele taste better.

What excites you about pet fashion?                                                                                                                

Pet fashion is exciting because it is an evolving industry, which is always changing according to the trends of the market. Pet Fashion goes parallel with human fashion. The pet industry is a 60 billion year industry with rocketing growth and converging branches of services holistic products/hotels/spas/photography and clothes. The latter is emerging steady but still a growing segment of this market.

How does dogs figure into your life?                                                                                                                         

I had pets all my life. As a Teenager I owned a Great Dane and some Chihuahuas. Eventually a bulldog, a hairless crested, and back to Chihuahuas. Having these pets taught me about dog personalities and how different they are from each other physically and psychologically – which requires different treatment to achieve different purposes with them.

Do you design with specific breeds in mind?

Yes, while designing for animals, special characteristics of the breed must come into consideration for a successful fit. Bulldogs and Greyhounds are the most challenging. A Bulldog’s shoulders are broad
and closed to the neck dimensions. A Greyhound’s chest is very deep, and their running capacity only allows for flexible fabric when making a garment for them. Also, sewing for a short coat dog versus a shaggy one. The latter requires lighter fabrics to avoid hyperventilation. The markings of a dog are sometimes brought into the design as well. Lapdogs are the easiest and most versatile clients.

Who or what are some of the things that have influenced your life
and designs

I learned to sew as a teenager. In the ‘80s my love for fabrics took me to Philadelphia University to pursue a career in textiles. In 2000I reinvented myself, getting a Gemological degree from GIA in NY. I first came into the pet scene as a hat maker for Ada Nieves in 2009. In this event, I designed the hats to match her Moulin Rouge runway show collection. It is fair to say that NY Pet Fashion show has influenced my craft immensely.

How much time is invested into creating your production designs? 

My average time is usually a week since it is a part time job. It may also take two or three depending on the project because patterns have to be made, followed by research for the materials needed.  A lot of thought goes into each design as well. Example a hat has to be made to fit two straight ears without bothering the cartilage,
or designs with sleeves which are time consuming because the armholes usually has to be adjusted for the dogs to move freely or they will look stiff. Usually in between there is also a fitting .

Does pop-culture influence how you create a product?

Yes, because most dog fashionistas keep up with current trends in the market so is always helpful to be aware of happenings in fashion and celebrity moments to keep the line up to date. Pop culture has been influential into putting pet fashion in the global spotlight as well.

Fashion Hero ?

For me it is Caroline Herrera and Valentino