“I am not part of the ‘throw away’ fashion generation. I have a respect for quality. I like things that get better as they age.” I gave a little cheer when I read this quote on French fashion supremo Carine Roitfeld’s Instagram feed. I might be talking about canines rather than couture these days, but this perfectly sums up the thinking behind Tales of Teddy. It all started with a A Better Dog Collar.
When I told friends that my mission was to make A Better Dog Collar, they made suggestions. Customized army-surplus webbing, aluminium hardware, a shot of neon and a Shoreditch sensibility were the combined directives from a couple working in fashion. The dog-less ones, who don’t know the delights of muddy morning walks, liked the idea of extravagant leathers with buckles-as-jewels. A fair few of the multi-dog-owning pack stood firm on no-nonsense practicality (the more waterproof, chew-proof and glow-in-the-dark, the better).
While individually, none of the above resembled my idea of A Better Dog Collar, I liked elements of each because a combination of style, quality and practicality was what I was after. In my view, A Better Dog Collar should be intrinsically excellent and made to last. It should also allow a dog to be a dog; be fundamentally strong and practical. Finally, from the cast of the buckle to the gleam of the leather and every stitch in between, my version of A Better Dog Collar should showcase the best of British craftsmanship, paying homage to those traditional skills that need to be appreciated if they are to survive.
My quest for A Better Dog Collar began in the West Midlands, at one of the few remaining British brass foundries serving the equestrian industry. I met the family who own the foundry along with several office dogs (dogs in the workplace? Always a good sign), I poked about in their buckle bins, pored over archives and, over the coming months (it takes time when there’s just one skilled worker in charge of casting buckles by hand) I got better at sketching buckles. The aim was to create a fastening that would combine the requirements of strength and practicality with more than a hint of polish.
The result was a smart ‘swell front’ buckle that is not too heavy and not too flash. It has an added roller to prolong the life of the leather that runs under it because, obviously, we all want a collar that lasts. My favourite detail is the subtle but significant stainless steel prong. It adds integral strength to the buckle. It’s also low-key but distinctive and, from a former fashion editor’s point of view, I like silver put with gold.
Next up, what leather? An old, established English leather company supplied their finest bridle leather (because if it’s robust enough for horses, it’ll work well for dogs), in good strong colours, barrel-dyed to ensure they will not bleed or rub-off. I opted for a warm conker brown, a smart black and a rich dark green (I may be biased, but the green looks particularly good against Schnauzer grey).
An experienced saddler with a strong trade in sheep harnesses and horse tack, operating out of a workshop in Herefordshire, agreed to create the collars especially for Tales of Teddy. Each one is made in the traditional saddler’s manner, hand stitched -with no glue, no rivets, no shortcuts – allowing the beauty of the leather to shine. We put enough holes along the collar strap to allow for a bit of wiggle room (according to how shaggy we let his coat grow and how indulgent we are with his snacks, Teddy’s collar size is prone to vary). And a final detail: Tales of Teddy is discreetly marked on the leather by way of a stamp.
So, A Better Dog Collar will not offer extravagant glitz or reflect a hipster’s fleeting fancies, but it will hold its own against both, with the aim of (stylishly) standing the test of time – as things that are skilfully crafted from the best materials invariably do.