Jeremy Murray designed the Horween leather leash he flaunts on walks around Los Angeles with his lab and shepherd mix Raider after failing to discover anything on the market that caught his eye. "Being a graphic designer, I couldn't find anything I wanted at PetCo.," says Murray. "A leash is a lot like a watch: It's in your hand and connected to you so it should be fashionable." Thus the leash and thus Wolfgang, Murray's year-old company, which sells streetwear- and menswear-inspired dog goods to owners tired of the same old neon nylon leashes and collars.
"There were nice leashes and collars being made in high fashion by places like Louis Vuitton, but there was nothing for your average active guy," says Murray, who spent years buying camo leashes in hunting stores. Now, his leashes and collars are about to go on sale in high-end skate shops and dog shops around California, where they'll likely sell out quickly. Nearly 57 million Americans own a dog and the market for pet goods has grown rapidly every year. Murray expects the success of Wolfgang to inspire other brands to compete over his strange corner of the fashion market.
"There will be more companies, but we see that as a good thing," he says. "When a category grows, the brands in that category tend to grow as well."
For now, the list of companies making fashionable and masculine dog accessories is extremely short. Filson sells bridle leather leashes, and collars as well as handsome shelter cloth coats. J and J Dog Supplies stocks British-style rope leashes and braided leather leads. ForDogTrainers.com has sturdy, studded collars for Pitbulls and Mastiffs. And that's about it.
"This makes sense as a streetwear trend," says Murray, who uses dogs belonging to professional athletes like snowboarder Justin Bennee as models for his colorful products and hopes to soon release an urban dog bag modeled on the hiking backpacks popular with serious hikers. He says he hopes to do something similar to what brands like Woolrich Woolen Mills and Fjallraven have done so successfully: give goods designed to work in the woods and along suburban sidewalks a bit of an urban edge. [Wolfgang collars from $25; wolfgangusa.com]