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Pet Projects: Footwear Designers on Their Furry Friends

Sam Edelman, Matt Bernson and others reveal how their dogs — and one rabbit —inspire their work.

Bonkers the rabbit with Ivy Kirzhner flats

Bonkers the rabbit with Ivy Kirzhner flats

Photo By courtesy of Ivy Kirzhner

Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette. Carolina Herrera and Gaspar. Isaac Mizrahi and Harry and Dean. Many of fashion's major players are known for doting on and designing items inspired by their pets. Some — like Lagerfeld, who launched his cat-inspired accessories capsule in October, and Herrera, who created a puppy-covered fabric print in 2012 and a Gaspar handbag collection in 2013 — literally incorporate their pets' personalities into their products, while others make their animal companions muses in subtler ways.

The footwear world is no different in its affinity for animals. Designers like Donald Pliner and Ivy Kirzhner have created shoe styles adorned with likenesses of their furry friends. And Sam Edelman's Jack Russel, Squeex, is known for pitter-pattering around his showrooms. The pup even cheered Edelman on at the Footwear News Achievement Awards in December, waiting in the car with the driver to greet the designer after the event. "He inspires us every day with his wit and charm and personal style," Edelman said.

Read on for more about how these stylish pets add an adorable twist to business.

Next page: Ivy Kirzhner’s Bonkers bud >>

Ivy Kirzhner with Bonkers

Ivy Kirzhner with Bonkers

Photo By courtesy of Ivy Kirzhner

Ivy Kirzhner
Pet:
Bonkers, 6, rabbit
Love story: "Not only is Bonkers super sassy and has a completely bad-ass attitude, but he's incredibly intelligent and loves to communicate. He loves to show off and will thump and grunt at you if you're not paying attention. It's amazing to see such a little creature carry so much rambunctious personality."  
Daily routine: "Bonkers is the beloved mascot of our showroom. He roams around freely and is here hanging out with us every day. Buyers come and meet him, and he actually helps sell the collection. He's my trade secret."
Creative contribution: "Bonkers is my spirit animal, so I decided to immortalize him by making the Bonkers bunny flats. I wanted to capture Bonkers' sassy attitude, so I threw on a ton of studs and gave him Swarovski crystal eyes. Also, I stopped using real fur in any of our products and designs. It looks better on Bonkers and his friends anyway."
Pet peeve: "Bonkers enjoys getting into mischief. He loves to chew on everything, especially T-shirts. He'd completely cover them up with holes. My husband and I are thinking of a T-shirt line called 'Holes by Bonkers.' We’ll throw him a pile of T-shirts to chew on and 'design.'"

Next page: Sam Edelman’s constant companion >>

Sam Edelman and Squeex

Sam Edelman and Squeex

Photo By John Aquino

Sam Edelman
Pet:
Squeex, 6, dog
Love story: "A friend snuck him [into the U.S.] on an airplane. ... He comes from a great line of home-bred Jack Russell [terriers] from County Limerick in Ireland.
Daily routine: "[He comes to the office] every day. He interrupts every important meeting and jumps on important customers' laps."
Creative contribution: "His humor is captivating. He is so handsome and so warm and loving. He loves our designs."
Best trait: "He never talks back."

Next page: Matt Bernson’s good Abe >>

Matt Bernson
Pet:
Abraham, 8, dog
Love story: "We tried to find the breeder my wife's family used when she was a kid to get their dogs. She had unfortunately moved, but we were referred to her friend."
Daily routine: "Abraham [comes] to work with me every day. He usually insists on trying to take the seat of any guest, no matter how fancy they are dressed. Some people find it charming; others find it puzzling. Abe is a neighborhood favorite with the kids, so our Tribeca boutique gets lots of visitors to see him. We, of course, allow other dogs."
Creative contribution: "We often try to find his Pantone number. It is a reddish brown that when matched in leather is extra luxurious."
Pet peeve: "He begs for food even after he is well-fed."
Best trait: "He loves to snuggle under the covers."

Next page: Ruthie Davis’ best pals >>

Ruthie Davis with her dog River

Ruthie Davis with her dog River

Photo By courtesy of Ruthie Davis

Ruthie Davis
Pets:
Desert, 12, and River, 5, dogs
Love story: "They were both gifts from my husband."
Daily routine: "I live for River and Desert, and luckily my apartment is only a block away from my office. You can catch me, pretty much every morning, walking both of them up 10th Avenue in my sky-high heels."
Creative contribution: "I’m always inspired by clean lines and architecture. The Italian Greyhound has such an amazing, lean, athletic shape. I find them incredibly graceful and statuesque, and that's certainly an inspiration for my shoes." Davis also launched a canine-inspired footwear capsule with John Bartlett last year.
Pet peeve/best trait: "It’s not really a bad habit, per se, but both River and Desert love to cuddle and snuggle with me. ... It makes it hard for me to get up and be productive. They are so cute."

Next page: Donald Pliner’s canine inspiration >>

Donald J Pliners first print ads featuring the Pliners and their dog BabyDoll debut in 2005

Donald Pliner
Pets:
BabyDoll, 12, and MoonLite, 1, dogs
Love story: "BabyDoll is from a breeder in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. [I got] MoonLite through a veterinarian friend from Indianapolis and a tremendous customer in our Las Vegas store. She was trained for six months and she spent one day a week with sick children in a hospital. Then the trainer came to our house in Los Angeles for five days to train BabyDoll, [daughter] Starr, [wife] Lisa and me."
Show-off: "BabyDoll used to come to [our showroom in] New York and we would always ask customers before and after the presentation not to clap because loud noises bother her. Someone always forgot and BabyDoll would start barking and running around the platform."
Creative contribution: "BabyDoll had her own collection, Friends of BabyDoll Pliner. Whatever I did in my leatherwear collection, I also made for dogs, including leashes, collars and carriers in the same materials as the shoes."