If you’ve tuned into television shows like The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills or Vanderpump Rules, you might recognize reality TV star and lifestyle expert Lisa Vanderpump, along with her adorable pup, Giggy. When someone that famous brings much-needed attention to worthy animal causes, we just can’t help but take notice.
In an effort to involve herself significantly with pet charities, Lisa searched for someone who was just as passionate about animal welfare as she is. She teamed up with a similarly canine-obsessed management consultant John Sessa, and the pair started working on a line of pet products, many of which have been inspired by the stunning Golden Collar Award that the Hollywood Reporter bestowed upon Giggy in 2012.
“Giggy has been really prominent in the show, and we’ve had offers for him to do things. He gets involved with lots of charities. He walks for children with alopecia every year because he has alopecia himself,” Lisa says. Her 5-year-old Pomeranian has struggled with severe allergies, and fans have been able to closely follow his story.
Now, she’s recently released an entire line of pet clothing, accessories, and gear known as Vanderpump Pets, and it’s every bit as glamorous as you’d imagine. After designing the collar that’s evocative of Giggy’s award, Lisa and John started noticing holes in the pet product industry, which they were eager to fill.
“For example, we found the current marketplace lacked a bling collar with both durability and quality while maintaining a lower price point,” John says. After attending several pet conventions, he and Lisa realized they could expand to encompass a full collection of collars, leashes, jewelry, proprietary step-in bling harnesses, designer carriers, crystal dog bowls, wee-wee pads, a custom clothing line, and even a Giggy stuffed replica.
Today, aside from incorporating Lisa’s signature shade of pink, the casual and custom collections include items from a black-and-white diamond bow-tie collar to blue suede-fringe designs to jewel-encrusted leashes. The spring/summer collection released 34 new products, but the upcoming season will add a whopping 191 to the line.
“Needless to say we have been busy, and have a great time expanding as quickly as we can!” John says.
“We’ve been inspired by different things,” Lisa says. “I have a big jewelry collection, so we’d think, wouldn’t that look good on a collar?” She says there has been a lot of trial and error. “It’s easy to do things that cost a fortune, but we wanted to make them affordable.”
As far as picking a favorite design, that’s sort of like asking Lisa to pick her favorite pet. She lives in an area that’s zoned for horses and has seven dogs of her own: four Pomeranians, two Golden Retrievers, and one Maltese. But she does call out the elegant pet carrier bags that are reminiscent of a Chanel-type design, as well as the fringe collars for long-haired pups.
“Sometimes a collar can get lost in the fur, so the fringe is nice,” she says.
As for John, he currently has three Chihuahuas and also resists the pressure to pick a favorite product from Vanderpump Pets, although he’s quick to mention the patent-pending harnesses and the handmade dog bowl with crystals.
Next to the stylish designs, the Vanderpump Pets collection is all about giving back to the animal community. Lisa is very active with the American Humane Association and helps the charity with its annual Hero Dog Awards. She also aims to bring critical attention to some less savory organizations and practices, such as the Yulin Dog Festival in China. Lisa feels particularly passionate about spreading awareness of this cruel and inhumane event.
“It ruins my life to see these pictures, to see these dogs tortured. … It stays with me for days. I wake up at night and think about it,” she says, while calling upon willing participants to march and sit outside the Chinese embassy. She won’t label herself an animal activist, but she does call herself a dog and cat lover and advocate.
But let’s not forget about Giggy (pictured above on Lisa’s lap), the pup with his own megawatt star status and public following (he has more than half a million Facebook likes and thousands of Twitter followers).
“He doesn’t think he’s a dog. He needs a lot of attention,” Lisa says, like a true doting doggy parent. In fact, he doesn’t really like walking and prefers to be carried, whether it be around his sunny California neighborhood, to various talk shows, or on Dancing with the Stars. “He’s a good little boy. He doesn’t like to be left at home.”
What’s next for Lisa and her collection? The fall/winter line hits shelves mid-September in boutiques and pet stores throughout the U.S., Canada, and the Bahamas. We can also expect custom-designed clothes by Fifi & Romeo for Vanderpump Pets within the next few months.
Items can currently be purchased online at Vanderpump Pets and also at Amazon and SHOP.com. Most of them are fairly affordable and fall within the $20 to $50 range. Plus, a portion of all sales from every luxe collar, couture pet carrier, and more will be donated to some of Lisa and Giggy’s most beloved charities, including the American Humane Association.
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About the author: Whitney C. Harris is a New York-based freelance writer for websites including StrollerTraffic, Birchbox and WhattoExpect.com. A former book and magazine editor, she enjoys running (with Finley), watching movies (also with Finley), and cooking meatless meals (usually with Finley watching close by).