LaPlace woman brings together love of dogs, fashion

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 2, 2013

By Kimberly Hopson

LAPLACE – Local dog couture designer Severine Vicknair of PinkPunkPuppy Designs will be showcasing her exclusive designs at this year’s New York Pet Fashion Show, a precursor of sorts to the renowned Westminster Kennel Club dog show. The show is expected to draw at least 500 human and 700 canine participants and will include a costume contest and runway show.
The Swiss native, a mother of two, has been sewing since her early days. Her education in sewing was bolstered by the knowledge of her paternal and maternal grandmothers, who were also seamstresses.  
“I have been sewing since I was 7 years old. I’m from Switzerland,” she said. “There,
you have home economics starting in second grade. Both of my grandmothers were seamstresses, so I was well trained at a young age.”
Vicknair got her start in the dog fashion industry coincidentally.
“When we got our first dog named Breezy, she was a baby, and she was always cold. The clothes that I bought didn’t fit her, so I started sewing. When Breezy was too old for it, I stopped, and we adopted Peanut,” she said. “It was the same with her, so I started sewing. My mom passed in March, and by then I was just sewing for me or for family members. I went home for her funeral and brought back some fabric that she’d had. I made a dress called ‘Black Diva’ — black fabric with tulle and everything. I posted it on Facebook for my friends to see and that kind of got it rolling. People wanted to order them.”
Since then, Peanut, a 4-year-old golden brown Pomeranian, has become a trademark of sorts — Vicknair’s Facebook page is named for her and is loaded with photos of the dog modeling her frilly designs. Not only does Peanut wear the clothes, she follows her owner everywhere in her very own carriage. Vicknair has four dogs in all: J.J, Breezy, Peanut and Gizmo.
“There are dogs that love to wear clothes, there are dogs that don’t care, and there are dogs that don’t mind. Peanut loves to wear clothes,” she said.  “J.J. loves to wear clothes. Breezy and Gizmo couldn’t care less.”
Pet fashion is big business, though it’s not as mainstream in Louisiana. Although Vicknair has only been in business since April, she has already amassed a large number of clients and a decent following. She is also a member of Paw Vogue, an online pet fashion portal. Vicknair doesn’t like to brag, but she says she is the real deal.
“Paw Vogue is pretty much a collection of the best designers. (For the New York show), you can only bring your model if you’re an approved designer. An approved designer means that you have to have a certain level of status in the designer world,” she said. “I don’t want to say it like that because I don’t feel like I’m at that level, but my fans and friends and cousins, it’s what they think.”
Vicknair is grateful for the attention she receives and feels blessed because so many are pulling for her, even perfect strangers. The support means even more to her because Vicknair experienced serious losses during Hurricane Isaac. Vicknair said she and her family had to swim out of their home with their dogs strapped to them.
“I think for many people, it would be helpful to know that even though we got flooded and lost everything, if you have love, prayers, family and friends in your life you can build up again,” she said.
Vicknair hopes to win Pet Fashion Designer of the Year at the New York competition. The competition will include a “Roaring 20’s” theme. She cannot reveal her exact plans for the theme, but plans to put one her models in a replica of a famous actress’s dress from the period. Another of her models will wear a 1920’s-styled wedding dress.
Nothing will happen beyond receiving the title, but Vicknair said the award is mostly about getting your business’s name out there. Winning is a prestigious honor and can possibly open the gates for a bigger business and more exposure. Two dogs will walk the runway for her, and four dogs that will participate in the pageant. Peanut will remain on the sidelines as her companion.
Vicknair does most of her business through her Facebook page, where she posts photos of all of her latest designs. She also accepts orders through both Etsy and her personal website, Her Etsy page is currently on hold while she rebuilds her home and studio. The New York Pet Fashion Show will take place Feb. 8 at in the Penn Top Ballroom at the Hotel Pennsylvania.