As pet adoption numbers soar, so does the market for apparel and accessories designed for consumers’ furry friends. The American Pets Products Association estimated that $109.6 billion would be spent on pets in the US in 2021 alone.
The market’s promising projections have triggered a crossover between the pet industry and some of today’s top-performing categories like the secondhand and denim markets. Last February, popular resale platform Poshmark jumped onboard, expanding its pre-owned offerings to include pet fashion. And just last year, Diesel launched not one, but two collections dedicated to apparel for small dogs.
A new brand with denim connections is setting out to accomplish a crossover of its own. In December, Mindy Elgart launched Sonia-TY, a label that bridges the gap between pet-loving humans and luxury pet accessories needed for travel. The brand provides a range of matching, multi-functional items made of sustainable leather and denim for dogs, horses and their female caretakers.
“I have believed for many years that opportunity existed in the pet industry space,” Elgart said. “The initial concept was to make a high quality, classic, timeless product with a touch of whimsy—a kind of Hello Kitty-meets-Hermes.”
Elgart formulated the idea for the brand after experiencing her own struggles searching for convenient-yet-fashionable tools for taking her pets—Sonia, a Yorkshire Terrier who inspired the brand’s name, and Roman, a Chow Shepherd mix—along for all of her travels .
“Over time, I grew tired of the tangle of leashes, bags and carriers needed to get my dogs—plus my own belongings—from one place to another,” she said. “Seeking a streamlined, yet chic, solution that would facilitate my multi-tasking lifestyle while keeping my animals close by, I began to envision a single, functional tote that would replace my purse and dog carrier.”
In that moment, Elgart, who studied fashion design and merchandising at the Fashion Institute of Technology, developed the concept for her very first product: The Wandrist Tote. The bag doubles as a handbag and a pet carrier, allowing the wearer to comfortably transport both a small pet and their personal items at once. It also includes a zip-panel top entry and a removable pillow to create a soft cushion for a pet, as well as a strap that can be used as a built-in leash.
The style retails for $895 and is offered in two fabrications: Tencel and recycled cotton blended denim with a laser printed Sonia-TY monogram and Italian leather trim; and plant-based leather made from corn, UV-printed with a “Villette Toile.” The tote is just one of the many products included in the brand’s first assortment. Other items include collars, leashes and matching women’s belts.
Denim is a major focus for the brand, as Elgart notes that the fabric’s cowboy roots continue to connect denim and animals. A self proclaimed “crazy horse girl,” Elgart wanted to make sure her pet accessories line extended to her other favorite animal. The Maximus Halter—the harness a horse wears around its face and neck—is available in denim and leather variations for $695.
“I have always loved denim and how versatile it is—how it goes from day to night—and I often wear jeans when I travel,” she said. “I also think denim has an innate durability and timeless style that naturally lends itself to pet accessories.”
To develop the products, Elgart worked with longtime friend, founder and creative director of Godmother NYC Christine Rucci, who guided her through her selection of sustainable supply chain partners.
“Sustainability to me not only means using ethically sourced goods that minimize damage to the earth, but also encompasses the human element—meaning that we work with companies that pay fair wages, provide a safe workplace, invest in their local communities and adhere to sustainability standards,” she said, adding that, as the company grows, it will source materials that are in close proximity to its factories and distribution centers.
Turnaround time from raw material to shipping currently takes anywhere from four to five weeks, as the majority of production and sourcing is done in Italy.
The company works closely with its partners to ensure its materials are sustainable. Its denim fabrics are made using recycled cotton and Tencel fibers, while its jacquard denim is made with organic cotton and recycled polyester. It also sources leather hides from the food industry, which in turn helps prevent waste. The leather tanning it uses incorporates fewer chemicals and less water than traditional approaches. The brand also uses recyclable, plant-based leather created from a byproduct of the corn harvest.
With an emphasis on creating sustainable products and working with responsible supply chain partners, the brand ensures its packaging measures up. Sonia-TY uses dust bags made of organic unbleached cotton, and boxes that are built to last and be reused. “I firmly believe that making quality products that are built to last is key to minimizing waste,” she said.
Elgart is relying on Instagram, Facebook and, eventually, TikTok, to share her brand message, and plans to launch a brand ambassador program on each of the platforms. For now, Sonia-TY is taking a direct-to-consumer approach to retail.
Next up, Elgart will launch a spring delivery featuring solid color leather, camouflage denim jacquard and a coated version of the brand’s signature monogram denim. She plans to expand the range to include more equestrian accessories, jewelry for both pets and their humans, and “perhaps even some jeans made with Tencel denim.”
Sonia-TY products are available now at Sonia-ty.com, and retail from $225-$895.