Dapper Dogs is my latest fabric collaboration with Liberty.
The concept was simply, ‘a garden party for dogs’. I imagined cocktails and cigarette holders, and a sort of British version of The Great Gatsby (for dogs). In the end I had to go through my illustrations and replace all the booze with fruit juice, and all the cigarettes and cigars with scarves and lollies etc, because technically it was supposed to be a children’s fabric design.
The first dog I drew was Bill, a Portuguese streetdog I know. I gave him a chicken walking stick because he likes to chase a rubber chicken around, and a waistcoat with a bone pattern on. After Bill, I started giving all of the individual dogs their own characters, names, and outfits with the kind of small details I thought would appeal to dogs.
For example, Carmen the spaniel has a dress with squirrels on, Two Shoes has a tennis ball dress, Starter the greyhound has hares, Cuba has a postmen pattern on his shirt, and Pumpkin has lamp-posts. General Nunu the Schnauzer has a pigeon medal and a cat medal pinned to his chest. None of these details are visible in the finished fabric design unless you really peer closely, but I like knowing they’re there.
The last thing I did after drawing the dogs and the details (musical notes, and chewed shoes and socks) was to write a biography for each dog. When I sent everything to Liberty at the end I gave them the background stories I’d written so they would see the dogs as proper characters, and the design as more of a story.
You can read these stories at the bottom of this page.
Below are some of the individual dogs. The images are too big for the slideshow, so open them in a new tab.
(They are the original illustrations, so you’ll see Slinky Magoo still has her long cigarette holder)
This is a slideshow - you have to click to see the next image:
Finally, here are the background stories I wrote for each of my Dapper Dogs:
Starter is a talented greyhound who had a successful career as a sprinter, winning two golds at London 2012 before starting a ceramics bakery called Pots n Buns. By day she sells fine porcelain pots with decorative hare motifs inspired by Japanese narrative scrolls, and by night she bakes sourdough bread. She offers free dental insurance to anyone who finds a bit of pot in their bun.
Dougal is the globetrotting Laird of Fife’s MacDog clan who spends half the year golfing by Loch Cambo, and half the year in Tangiers. Dougal has strange and wonderful projects all over the world, from sporran and rug-weaving workshops in Morocco, to port wine lodges in Porto, to dog-biscuit bakeries in Amsterdam.
Saul Good-Dog is a defence lawyer specialising in cases where the defendant has been accused of being a naughty dog and stealing scraps from the table. Has been known to sniff around for evidence in bins.
Pumpkin is not just a glamorous King Charles Spaniel lap-dog, she’s a crooner in an exclusive 1920s style speakeasy called Fleabags, with a hidden entrance in the shadows between two lamp-posts. Only Pumpkin can get away with some of the saucy lines she gives to the dangerous gangster hound-dogs who frequent Fleabags.
Carmen and Domingo are sultry hip-swinging dancers who met on dog-dating app Waggr and immediately fell in love. Their shared passion is swing-dancing to the great jazz pianists and they’re undefeated champions in the Lindy Hop Olympics, which are held every four dog-years - in human years this is about every six and a half months.
Hennessy is well-known on the party scene but isn’t much of a talker these days… She prefers to wriggle and roll around on the floor. She’s been this way since she caught fleas at a slam poetry night, but everyone just assumes she’s really soulful and is enjoying the moment.
Mr. Phizz is always surrounded by an audience. His followers hang on his every word and listen to his clever, witty comments and urbane pronouncements so they can be more like him. He knows all the best titillating gossip and does daring impressions of the other dogs on the social scene.
Nunu looks like a strict and serious military Schnauzer, but he’s really a dog of flamboyant tastes and every year flies his old warplane across the Atlantic to New Orleans to dance among the feathers and beads at Mardi Gras, where they call him The Funky General.
Pancake is a Thai street-dog who was so full of wanderlust that she got up one morning and set off on a journey. She crossed Asia and Europe before stowing away on a Dutch ferry and finding her way to Scotland. Many tales are told of this glamorous golden mongrel, known in cities across the world because of her adventuring trips.
Cuba is a bigwig in the shipping industry and has a mansion by a bridge in Panama where he watches his imports coming in and his exports sailing away while drinking cold drinks, listening to hula music, and laughing smugly.
Billy was once a vagabond’s mongrel living a thief’s life and being made to do terrible things. But he ran away one day and made his way to coastal town where he founded F.A.E.C.R.E.O. - a special Fetching Association for the Endless Chasing and Retrieval of Enticing Objects.
Stanley is a rich young screenwriter who specialises in monster movies. He wrote the screenplays for Big Cat Eats City (and its sequel Big Cats Eat City) and The Postman Bites Back.
Juniper is a shoe sauce sommelier with her own range of gourmet accompaniments that make chewing shoes much more tasty. Her favourite is a hot sausage and liver ganache, best enjoyed on an elegant dress shoe.
Slinky Magoo is a loud flirtatious stand-up comedian with a very high-pitched voice who is always offending the other dogs by making up outrageous vulgar stories about them.
Molly was a Savile Row tailor for years. She became so greedy for ice-cream that she couldn’t stop eating it. The suits she made would always have one of her favourite flavours splattered on them somewhere, and when her customers began to complain she decided to start an ice-cream parlour instead.
Ninja is the bravest handbag spy in the business, paid to carry out secret investigations and find damning evidence. He is the agent who sniffed out the chewed-up wrapping foil that proved the starlet Pinky LaStrange guilty in the famous Case of The Missing Chocolate Coins.