Dog togs are designer's pet project Clothing: Erin Minton creates fashions fit for everything from Chihuahuas to Great Danes.

September 13, 1998|By Angela Shannon | Angela Shannon,KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

Erin Minton designs clothes for customers who never complain about color, fabric or fit. They don't even growl at the prices.

Happy customers lick her face - or wag their tails.

She designs clothes for canines: colorful sweaters, fake leather biker jackets, hooded raincoats, fleece jackets, boots and slogan T-shirts.

"Whenever I tell people what I do, they're like 'Huh?' " she says. "People don't believe it."

Minton and her husband, Milt, own Minton Design, a graphic-arts company. Along with dog clothes, the company designs packaging, brochures and hard goods such as pet toys, feeding bowls and aquarium ornaments.

Minton's career as a designer of doggy fashions is a case of serendipity. After spending eight years as art director for a Charlotte, N.C., public relations company, Minton, 37, started her own graphic design business in 1992. Within a week, a Charlotte printer asked her to design a catalog for a Dallas, Texas, manufacturer of dog sweaters, coats and beds.

Almost immediately, the manufacturer began asking for Minton's advice, and she soon found herself designing pet clothes.

"I would look at women's wear and get ideas that way," she says. "It's mostly women who buy clothes for their dogs."

About three years later, her designs caught the attention of Ethical Products, a large designer and manufacturer of pet products based in Newark, N.J. They wanted somebody to beef up their clothing line and give it some style. The company offered Minton a contract to design exclusively for them.

That was three years ago. It took some rather unconventional research for Minton to get her line established.

"I worked with local veterinarians, went to kennels and I would borrow dogs from people - just about anybody I knew who had a dog - to measure them," she says.

She makes clothes small enough for Chihuahuas and large enough for Great Danes. And even though it's just one of several contracts her graphic-design company handles, Minton says it's the most fun.

"I have run into dogs wearing my clothes and it's pretty funny," she says.

One day while she was out walking in her neighborhood, she spotted a Lhasa apso in a familiar sweater standing outside with its owner, Carolyn Felton.

"I said, 'Hey, where did you buy that sweater? That's one of my designs,' " recounts Minton. She invited Felton to her studio and gave her samples of other styles.

Now the brownish-red Lhasa apso, Princess Emily, owns 20 to 30 sweaters, a couple of hats, a few T-shirts and a purple, hooded jogging suit with orange, yellow and pink bones on it.

Princess Emily doesn't care too much for the jogging suit, but she's doggone fond of her sweaters.

Minton has several photos of Princess Emily wearing her designs. Customers like to send her pictures.

"People are ecstatic when they see their dogs in clothes," says Minton.

Her family, which includes sons Kelly, 9, and Max, 6, doesn't have a dog - yet. But an 8-year-old mixed Jack Russell terrier named Jingles benefits greatly from being Minton's neighbor.

"She has a lot of clothes," says owner Judy Powell. "She loves it."

So why would anyone want to put clothes on a dog?

"It's a loving interaction with your dog," explains Powell. "They sit down and they're having a good time because they know you're having a good time. It's just another chance for an adult to play, and - hey, - how many do we get?"

The clothing line, the Fashion Pet Signature Collection, is available in a variety of pet supply stores.

The dog fashion business has other perks. Minton has crisscrossed the country meeting with Ethical Products

customers. She travels regularly to Hong Kong and China to visit the factories where the clothing is made.

This summer she taped a segment for a show called "Petsburgh USA" on the Animal Planet network. The segment, which will air later this year, will feature Minton and a veterinarian.

"The vet will be talking about how important it is to make sure your dog is properly outfitted for the winter," says Minton. "I'll be talking about the clothes and having a doggy fashion show."

It's pretty heady stuff, giving Minton cause to reflect: "You never know where life is going to take you. One door opens another."

Pub Date: 9/13/98

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.