With the rise of social media, there are more breeds of fashion celebrities than ever, from makeup influencers to vloggers. And as some particularly fluffy breeds gain legions of followers, it looks like fashion could be going to the dogs.
Though it sounds strange to say, by now many of us are familiar with the celebrity known as “Menswear Dog.” Photos of the now internet-famous Shiba Inu, named Bodhi, wearing mens’ clothing first broke the Internet back in 2013. But what (dog owners, including us, might wonder) led to that first pivotal post?
One rainy Saturday afternoon, Bodhi’s cosmopolitan and fabulous parent Yena Kim was sitting at home bored. She and her husband, Dave Fung, had just watched Fantastic Mr. Fox and agreed that the fox looked a lot like Bodhi. “We had a couple of shirts lying around, so we thought, ‘Why don’t we do a snapshot?’ I thought Bodhi would run away and we would laugh over it, but when we put the shirt and collar on him, he started giving us these angles and poses. It was almost as if he was smiling. We took three photos of him in different outfits and posted one of the images to our personal Facebook. It got more likes than Dave or I had ever received!”
Everyone was like “Oh, this should be a thing!”
Feeding off the public's response, Dave—as a graphic designer does—quickly put a logo together for Menswear Dog and uploaded the images to a Tumblr account that Sunday. Monday came around and the next thing they knew the Menswear Dog website was blowing up. GQ and other big publications such as The New York Times even picked it up. “We were both working full-time jobs during that time but we were getting requests to come in for shows and receiving opportunities that we never had before. We ran out of sick days in April 2013, so we had to make a choice if we were going to pick the site over our other work. It was very scary, but really exciting at the same time. I felt that if I didn't do it, I would really regret it and that is something that I wouldn't be able to live with.”
With no previous experience in photography, Yena is known as the main woman behind the camera. “I would Youtube how to do things and ended up launching my photography career through Bodhi, as my muse.” Always creative, Yena had studied graphic design at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) for a year and a half, where she met Dave. But, as she says, “I like doing things with my hands and found the screen very limiting.” So she took a gap year to teach English in Korea, where she saved up enough money to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York and study Fashion Design.
As an international in this market, Yena realized that she would have to be one of the best if she wanted to stay in the country post-graduation. “During my time at school I interned at a bunch of places because, as you know, it is harder for our generation to get a job when we graduate due to the saturation of the market. After graduation I was working with Ralph Lauren for two years in their design team doing beading, trim and dresses. I think Dave and I were both still dreamers, but our jobs did not allow us to live it out that much. We were both very creatively frustrated at the time.”
“Don’t look at what has been done previously. Go for what is happening right now and use the Internet to grow your reach.”
As a Fashion Designer, Yena feels that schools under-prep students for the reality of the fashion world. “Most students feel that they are not ready until they graduate, but they should start working on something while they are in school, even if it is just a blog.” With social media today, “designers can have their own voice and feature their designs on their own platform. So the power goes to them because the public ends up following the designer more so than the brand.”
“It was a way for us to take a risky adventure”
Today Menswear Dog has over 255K followers on Instagram, 210K likes on Facebook and over 224K followers on Tumblr. Brands such as Coach, Salvatore Ferragamo, Jimmy Choo, Banana Republic and Ted Baker (to name a few) have jumped on the viral bandwagon to use this unusual model as a way for them to market their collections. “We have never reached out to brands. We have always had them reach out to us. Instead, we concentrate on making sure that our content is interesting. We try to make it viral but that’s never the goal. At the end of the day, you will get their attention if you have an amazing post and people are sharing it.” Just goes to show that attention to content quality pays off! Literally.
In April 2015, Yena and Dave published a coffee table book for Menswear Dog. They wanted to create a classic, timeless book that could help men build the backbone of their wardrobe with a very simple overview. “Using a dog takes the intimidation out of fashion, which I think a lot of men struggle with. It is because he is a dog, not a man or a woman, or any race or age, that the fashion he shows becomes neutral and easy to relate to.” Yena even plans to develop Menswear Dog into a pet brand in the future—so stay tuned, furry friend lovers.
Interested in meeting Bodhi or getting advice from Yena for fashion design? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll put you in touch.