The influencer industry has grown and evolved a lot over the past decade — and so has the way we think about who qualifies as an "influencer." For many years now, it hasn't even limited to a specific species: Once a niche, pet influencers have become their own profitable sub-section of the space, with dedicated agencies, brand partnerships and devoted followings that have allowed them to shill for a variety of products, even the human kind.
Still, for a long time, within fashion, this category of influencer occupied its own lane, one that didn't cross over with the traditional blogger or content creator typically spotted at fashion week or scoring brand deals. Sure, you might see Doug the Poug on the step-and-repeat at a Target event or a designer's pet cameo on their Instagram accounts (hi, Stella), but that was about it. Now, we have Boobie Billie, Tika the Iggy, Lola Wang (fur child of Vera Wang) — each a beloved presence on social media with their own sartorial point-of-view. They all just happen to be dogs.
Loni Edwards, the founder and CEO of The Dog Agency, argues that there's been a shift within the broader perception of the market — and of pet influencers — that has allowed for this. Firstly, there are simply more options for dressing your pet. "At the beginning, it was so hard to find good fashion for your dog," she tells Fashionista. "Now, because the pet influencer space and the pet industry has evolved, you're seeing this new wave of fashion for pets."
From Edwards' point of view, the sartorial stakes for these dogs have never been higher: "It's not just a cute sweater [anymore.] They're full looks. Tika the Iggy [who The Dog Agency represents] posted the Lirika Matoshi strawberry dress. Earlier in Covid, I was like, 'This dress is amazing, I want it,' then I saw Tika wearing it. She got it before I did."
With the past year-plus spent at home (and with our screen times increasing dramatically as a result), these accounts have also been able to grow exponentially and attract new audiences. Edwards points to Tika's "Love It, Couldn't Wear It" video as an example of a viral moment that not only got people talking, but also "put an elevated spin" on dog fashion: After that, "Tika was called the new fashion 'It' girl by Vogue — it's taken on a whole new [life], coupled by other factors, like the development of the industry, the place of pets as family members and the amount we spend on them increasing every year."
Thomas Shapiro has been running the @tikatheiggy account for five years, gradually building its audience and developing its voice. However, he says fashion wasn't always its focus.
"She had a few outfits just for practical reasons, living in Canada and not having that much body fat. It stemmed from a place of practicality," Shapiro remembers. "As her online presence started growing, we started working with a few brands that do clothing just for Italian greyhounds. That's when I realized that people loved [her] fashion... It just happened."
The "Love It, Couldn't Wear It" video really took off on TikTok, a platform that Shapiro, like many others, began using more regularly during the pandemic. "In past years, we've done meet-and-greets and in-person events. We didn't get to do any of those [in 2020], so I thought, 'This is a good way to show off her outfits,'" he reasons.
When he uploaded the clip, Shapiro saw it take off almost immediately. He credits good timing and the app's algorithm picking it up and broadcasting to countless users. A similar thing happened when he cross-posted it to Instagram, he adds — since Reels had just launched, those videos were likely being pushed up on feeds.
This, combined with more product options and more eyeballs on these accounts, has allowed for a legitimization of pet influencers within the broader fashion community that didn't exist before. They're getting recognized by mainstream publications. (Tika was invited to participate in InStyle’s Golden Globe elevator photo booth, for instance.) Celebrities are recreating their videos and commenting on their posts. Brands are creating custom, dog-sized versions of their human products for them to wear on their feeds. (Boobie Billie, for one, is a Susan Alexandra gal.) They're even being paid to promote human fashion and beauty products.
Zales recently hired a handful of dog influencers — including Tika, Boobie, Lola and Maverick Dobrev (pup to actor Nina Dobrev), among others — for a campaign timed to the 10th anniversary of its Vera Wang Love bridal collection. The company wanted to commemorate this milestone with "something dramatically different, yet in line with our brand positioning around the bold statement maker," John McNamara, Signet Vice President of Marketing for the Zales Jewelers Division, tells Fashionista, via e-mail.