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In times of stress, there is really no better companion than a dog. Canine virtues are manifold! Dogs are blissfully unaware of stock markets, political campaigns, and most world events, for one thing. Scientists have proven that petting them decreases the stress hormone cortisol, for another. Add to that the fact that in places like Paris, taking the dog for a walk was one of a very brief list of activities that permitted a person to be outside during COVID-19 lockdowns, and acquiring a new best friend just seemed logical, if not particularly original: Animal shelters, breeders, and pet stores all reported more demand than there were dogs to meet it last year. For those of us already in possession of a pooch, 2020’s forced increase in togetherness led many to realize where they may have been deficient as a pet parent previously. Was your precious pup happy, really? Could he be happier? Had he, like you, begun to think that the bed you got him years ago was in fact kind of an eyesore, his collar pretty boring, his toys cheap and junky-looking? Didn’t he deserve better? Really, didn’t we all?
It was well into last April when my seven-year-old golden retriever, Hugo, began to seriously outshine his surroundings: the confines of our Tribeca loft, his usual collar and leash, my constant, staring, stressed-out presence. He wasn’t acting up—the opposite, in fact. The fabric of civilization was fraying, but he was stoic, he was reliable, he made me go outside several times a day, regardless of weather or whether I wanted to, and approached strangers with the oblivious joy of a creature who has yet to master the concept of social distance. He deserved a treat, I decided, one larger and more lasting than the usual pocket-crushed dog biscuit or head scratch. One that would up his style game a little (or a lot). It wasn’t long before I found myself sliding my cursor over the delicacies on Hermes.com.
Perhaps this leap from Milk-Bones to the world’s premier luxury house seems extreme. But historically, there’s actually nothing new about going above and beyond for a furry friend. Consider Valentino and his private-jet-setting cadre of pugs, or Bruce Weber’s chauffeured crop of supermodel retrievers. Trouble, Leona Helmsley’s white Maltese, inherited $12 million and a bodyguard detail. Whatever your preferred demonstration of affection, the doting dog parent is in very good company at Hermès—including the owner of the world’s most famous fleet of corgis. “We used to produce a collar for the Queen’s dogs,” Ly Lallier, the managing director of the brand’s equestrian atelier, told me on a call from Paris this winter. Even monarchs who abdicated were not immune: The Duke and Duchess of Windsor were also clients.
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“They came with their dogs to have a really nice blanket and collar and things like that,” said Lallier. “There’s always something with royalty and their animals.”
And aren’t we all kings and queens of these particular castles we’ve been sequestered in for the past 12 months? “We see dogs as part of the family now,” Lallier said, and there is something very chic, and very French, which is to say, very Hermès, about the café scene made complete by a chair pulled up for the pup. And it turns out that the venerable French house has been making accessories for dogs almost as long as it’s been making them for people. This year the offering includes new collar, leash, and blanket designs in Hermès’s classic equestrian themes, as well as a canvas carrier, lambskin-lined oak bed, and a food bowl inspired by the house’s Chaîne d’Ancre motif.
In France, the dog is considered “the best friend of the horse,” Lallier told me, and given the brand’s history as a harness workshop and saddlery, “the horse is the first client of Hermès. So the dog is the second client, in a way.” (People come in third, where we belong.) All of the dog products are made in the equestrian ateliers in Paris and Normandy by carefully trained craftspeople using the same exquisite materials that are intended for their larger hoofed friends. All are designed with an eye toward being “joyful and playful but also safe,” Lallier said. As to the latter point, a team of veterinarians advises on every design intended for animal use.
Ultimately, Lallier acknowledged, it’s more than just having the best-looking collar or carrier, or a dog bed and bowl that you’d be proud to show off (though those are certainly perks). “How we see it at Hermès,” Lallier told me, is that now more than ever, “you need well-being for you, for your family, for your animals. You want to buy nice products, beautiful products, but also products that are very comfortable for them.” Hugo, in his handsome new Hermès collar and leash, couldn’t agree more.