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Teddy’s Tales: The Parallel Worlds of Dog Show and Catwalk

I went to my first ever dog expo at the weekend and it reminded me an awful lot of London Fashion Week. In my previous life, as a fashion editor, I went to catwalk shows. Hundreds of them. Although the hottest designers could lure press and punters to various remote, edgy locations for their runway shows (if you managed to tempt Anna Wintour to your presentation in a disused car park in London’s East End it was considered a badge of honour) the main events revolved around a trade show-type affair held in one central location.
Okay, the amenities at Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre where the Kennel Club’s Discover Dogs event was held this weekend, were rather less glam than the Fashion Week set-up (think more champagne, less – much less – fast food) but there was a similar sense of expectant excitement in the air. And that is not where the comparison ends.
People came to Earls Court to see over 200 breeds of dog, enthuse over their favourites, perhaps pick-up a treat for their current companion or dream about which breed they’d dearly like to take home. At London Fashion Week there are over 80 different designers on show, people pay homage to their favourites, pick-up some style pointers for the coming season and imagine which catwalk creations they’d dearly like to see hanging in their wardrobe.
The fashion world and the dog world: there are some fairly direct parallels. At Discover Dogs I heard breeders discuss the finer aspects of grooming, carding and hand-stripping with a keen eye to proportion and style. At London Fashion Week it is par for the course to hear hem-lengths discussed ad infinitum by those who care about balancing a silhouette and the overall image.
And then there’s the lingo: with a common interest comes a distinct language. At a fashion show you hear talk of ‘bias cuts’, ‘a trouser’ (it’s always singular if you are in the know) and ‘getting your eye in’. The vernacular of the dog world is similarly obscure to those on the outside – I heard talk of ‘soft mouths’, ‘furnishings’ (known in my family as ‘Teddy’s fluffy bits’) and the elusive ‘art of recall’ this weekend.
Alongside the eye candy at both dog and fashion shows – those fine specimens of both canine and human variety – practical offerings are interspersed. Urine Off (clearly does what it says one the tin): a good candidate in the need-it, not want-it dog category. While at Fashion Week the equivalent would be something like a new high-tech fabric with innovative properties: no pizzazz on the stand, but essential to the trade.
For colour, look no further than the passion that both sets exude. Fashion has its so-called victims – those prescriptive types that live, eat and breathe catwalk and, going the whole hog, wear one purist, head-to-toe designer look. Probably not terribly dissimilar to the breed enthusiasts, who prefer one type of dog above all others (here I should admit to beetling towards the Mini Schnauzer section as soon as I got into the dog show), can’t resist the lure of their chosen breed and whose houses are often meccas to their pedigree chum.
At gatherings of both dog and fashion kind, enthusiasm bubbles under. While in the fashion world it may be the clever blend of references or sheer beauty wrought by a designer that sets imaginations soaring and bonds the crowd, at a dog show I’ve discovered, it’s more likely to be the stand of Rupert Fawcett; the cartoonist who ‘gets’ dogs and their relationships with their owners. At Earls Court his stand was heaving with fans of every description, young and old, all smiling, all pleased as punch to be there, bound by their love of all things canine. Look what I came home with: clearly I’ve joined their ranks.

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