Kennel to the Catwalk: A Designer’s Story
From the moment Catherine Fung saw Little Prince, her beloved Yorkshire terrier, she knew he was to be her muse. “I could just picture him with a tiny, leather suitcase and a beret on his head,” the Manhattan designer recounts. “With his furry mustache, he looked like a little English gentleman.” Little Prince eventually got his beret, but he would need a much larger suitcase to accommodate his extensive travels through England, Asia and America, where he served as his mother’s inspiration for her flagship store LP&P, which displays her title ready-to-wear women’s label, and her canine line, Little Prince & Piggy.
An Idea Is Born
It was in England that Fung’s designer passions first surfaced. The Hong Kong native spent her college years hosting dinner parties, costuming her little terrier to the themes of the evening. One of his first outfits was that of a teddy bear, which Fung created by cutting a stuffed toy to fashion around his body. Always the night’s main attraction, Little Prince enjoyed the attention he received when donning his unique attire—and Catherine took notice.
After completing fashion school in New York, Fung met a cocker spaniel named Piggy, whose name joined Little Prince’s to create her store’s moniker. Women and canine clothing lines were created almost simultaneously as Fung’s personal wardrobe was always echoed on the backs of her dogs. Her romantic, whimsical designs are made to complement the spirits of her patrons with both two legs and four. In one instance, feminine ruffles accentuating the curves of a woman’s blouse are found along the edges of a dog’s dress, and create the illusion of dancing when bouncing in rhythm with a wagging tail.
The Preferences of a Canine Customer
If a dog struggles when dressed in a particular outfit, they clearly do not approve and Fung says those items belong no more on an animal than an uncomfortable shirt belongs on one’s husband. Depending on when in its life a pet is introduced to clothes, the animal might prefer a design that fastens around the waist as opposed to one that is fitted over the head and temporarily covers the eyes. Her designs are created with comfort and utility in mind, which is evident as sales of jackets and her signature knits rise throughout the winter months.
But for a canine fashionista, favorites will emerge within their wardrobe. While a fear of white after Labor Day doesn’t factor into the equation, the lingering scent of a dog park on a tiny angora sweater sways pups like Little Prince in its direction. When people fawn over a particularly adorable ensemble, the sharply dressed dog will consider the outfit something that warrants praise. “There was a man who brought in two adorable Brussels Griffons,” recalls former LP&P employee Olivia Allin. “He was planning to go on a cruise and put the dogs in matching trench coats. They were so cute and strutting around the store—you know that they loved them.” Dogs like Little Prince and Piggy rarely leave home without their mother’s fashions, and the sight of clothes signals that it’s time to go out—prompting the same excitement as a leash.
The Blurry Line of Fashion
Though the LP&P women’s line is prominently displayed in Fung’s store through massive white Baroque frames and the dog fashions hang slightly lower, Allin observed that some customers chose to ignore the distinction. “One slim and beautiful client came in, looked at the large dog clothing, and decided one of the jackets might make a cute halter top. I was baffled when she disappeared into the dressing room, but she came out and it looked fantastic! It was still hard to keep a straight face, but she bought it and I’m sure she’s still rocking it with confidence.”
A Legacy in Place
In 2008, Catherine lost Little Prince after twelve years together. LP&P’s insignia, which animates the images of her muses, reminds customers of what continues to be her work’s inspiration. As Fung creates styles to embody the dogs’ spirit, she donates a percentage of the profits from their retail legacy to various animal charities and shelters in hopes that their four-legged friends will similarly be given the chance to touch the lives of others. At LP&P, there are reminders of Little Prince’s mellow tenderness in a soft, hooded sweater, and a snapshot of Piggy’s altruistic passion in a bright pink bubble dress. Fung’s motivation and her greatest satisfaction are sharing her dog’s personalities with the world, and watching as her customers get to know Little Prince and Piggy through the wardrobe she designs.
Photo courtesy of LP&P
By Barbara Sharnak for WebVet
Reviewed by Susan E. Aiello, DVM, ELS, and John A. Bukowski, DVM, MPH, PhD