For PetRageous Designs, keeping up with the latest trends and embracing the humanization of pets is at the core of the business’ success.
Throughout the pet industry, trends from the human world slowly filter into pet products. Popular foods, materials and even colors make their way from consumer goods for people onto the shelves of pet specialty retailers. For PetRageous Designs, this transfer of trends forms the very foundation of the business, starting with founder Gretchen George’s own career.
George was a buyer for several major retailers for more than 20 years, primarily in the flatware and tableware categories. She began doing product development for suppliers, where she started experimenting with pet dishes, eventually leading her to launch her own company in 2004.
“We started in hand-painted ceramic pet dishes, and then we went on to develop feeding as a category,” George says. “Whether it was stainless steel, melamine, feeders or placemats, we continued to develop the business.”
The brand now has an extensive line of feeding products, including stoneware, stainless steel and plastic bowls, raised feeders with coordinated frames and bowls, and a variety of placemats. While the dog market was initially more of a focus for PetRageous, George has seen the cat market explode since starting the company.
“Dogs really started as the major part of our business and today the cats are just climbing, that whole business,” she says. “The dog customer wanted more and more and I think the cat customer was like, ‘Well what about us?’”
Since then, PetRageous has expanded its cat line, offering options to meet the needs and sensibilities of felines and their owners.
“It took a little bit of study,” George says, noting that she had never owned a cat, so she learned about feline feeding preferences from her customers. “In my very first year, I was doing the same bowls for cats that I did for dogs, and I couldn’t understand why my big bowls weren’t selling until customers educated me that cats like small bowls and shallow ones, because of their whiskers.”
In addition to feeding products, PetRageous offers a full line of clothing, including outerwear, sweaters, pajamas and holiday-themed apparel, as well as a wide variety of toys for dogs and cats. To keep the company’s designs current and fresh across multiple categories, George is constantly surveying human style and décor trends to see what can be incorporated into the PetRageous lineup. She developed this eye for the latest look while working with people products, when she would travel around the world to go trend shopping.
“I continue to do that on a daily basis. I’m looking online and in stores, my brain and my eyes never rest,” she says. “I’m looking for new color, new ideas, whether it’s a shape or a glaze, whether it’s a kid’s T-shirt or pajamas.”
This is not always a direct translation, such as taking a style or pattern from human clothing and applying it to dog clothing. In color trends in particular, George turns to some unexpected sources to see what’s up-and-coming in popularity.
“We are constantly on top of colors,” she says. “I look at cars for color. When you start seeing it in every manufacturer’s line, that’s how you know people are loving this.”
Ready to Wear
George was inspired to bring PetRageous into the apparel category about 10 years ago, after a conversation with a customer.
“I was a textile and clothing major in college, and one of my primary customers heard me say that and he said, ‘Have you ever thought of getting into the pet clothing business?” she says. “And I said, nope. I think it’s pretty silly that dogs wear clothes.”
But George’s customer pointed out that pet apparel is in fact a huge business, and she started looking into the possibilities for a PetRageous clothing line. George went back to her college studies and hired a woman who had been at Liz Claiborne, and the company started developing dog clothes.
“I asked what she knew about pet clothing, and she said ‘Nothing, but if I can drape a person, I can drape a dog,’” George says.
As with the company’s feeding products, human tastes have a significant influence on the design and style of its clothes. Additionally, as pets are viewed more and more as members of the family, George has seen consumer demands in apparel become increasingly sophisticated and move away from pet-specific patterns.
“[Pet owners] want fabrics that mirror the ones they’re buying and wearing,” she says. “Pet pajamas that we used to do with little bones and paws, we’ve dropped them. Now they’re little firemen hats. We’ve got a whole Paris theme and little sheep on another. The whole holiday PJ business is the same; it does not have to have the pet attachment.”
But in addition to accounting for the pet owners’ tastes and desire to treat their pets as furry kids, PetRageous is serious about providing comfort, safety and convenience for the pets as well.
“One of the things we’re really known for in our clothing is our fit,” George says. “We really do fabrics that wash and wear and that are comfortable on the dog. We give them some tolerance as far as adjustability goes.”
George learned the important of easy-on, easy-off design from trying to put clothing on her own dog. PetRageous’ clothing is all either made to be put on over the pet’s head and secured with a belly band, or—like the company’s pajamas—has a Velcro closure on the back, so owners don’t have to uncomfortably bend their pet’s legs into an outfit.
Across the business, PetRageous brands all of its products with its signature paw print with an energy swirl in the center. From toys to clothing to dishes, the mark reflects the brand’s commitment to quality no matter what the product is. Starting with its original bowls, George has opted for strong materials that stand up to all kinds of wear and tear.
“I know it would be cheaper to do dolomite or low-fired ceramic, but I believe these dishes for the pets need to be just as strong as the pet parent’s own everyday dishes,” George says. “They need to be able to be put it in the dishwasher every single day if that’s what the customers wants. Every time they put it in the dishwasher, my name is looking right up at them as PetRageous Designs, and I want them to be happy with the bowl that they bought.”
PetRageous is constantly looking for opportunities to create new styles and incorporate different types of products into its lineup, from refreshing classic bowls with trendy colors and patterns to finding ways to meet the now year-round demand for apparel.
“We are always expanding into new products and new categories,” George says. “If you don’t today, you’re not in business, as far as I’m concerned.”
Throughout its various product lines, the company works to incorporate its “rageous” vibe, producing fun, high-quality products that will satisfy both pet and owner.
“We try to keep it fun, whimsical and safe,” George says. “Really and truly our goal is to make the pet happy, and the only way to do that is to make the owner happy, because they’re the ones buying the products.” PB