Inspiring editorial from MIX Magazine


Part of the forecaster’s remit is to spot what is rising and what is falling, acknowledging this ebb and flow in popularity. Here we demonstrate how, when it comes to trends, what goes around nearly always comes around.



Dogs and humans have a long history of happily co-existing; the start of their domestication is estimated at 23,000 years ago. Since then, hounds have trotted alongside their owners (complete with leads) on ancient carvings in Saudi Arabia, helped hunt lions in Assyrian reliefs from the palace of Nineveh and guarded houses in Pompeii (cave canem).



As dogs adapted cheerfully to being pampered pets as well as working animals, the increasingly close interaction was faithfully recorded. In the Tang dynasty, Japanese ladies played with toy dogs, Madame de Pompadour’s fluffy little lapdog in 18th century France was lovingly included in her portraits, while Dorothy’s Toto in The Wizard of Oz enjoyed a starry role in the film. This trope continues today; just look at the enormously popular Puppy floral installation by Jeff Koons outside the Guggenheim in Bilbao.



People’s passion for dogs has long been commoditised on a more domestic and commercial scale too. Dogs turn up in textiles, china, wood carvings, and, from the 19th century, in advertisements. The dog, used as a useful shorthand for domesticity and reliability, led to Jack Russells listening attentively to gramophones (His Master’s Voice); Labradors running over hills with toilet paper (Andrex), driving a car (Subaru), and chihuahuas endorsing Mexican food (Taco Bell). Inevitably, the pandemic has only increased the popularity of an animal that is essentially the ultimate comfort blanket. Sales of dogs jumped during lockdown, there was a brisk trade in dog theft, and even Pope Francis commented on people’s perceived preference for pets over children.



Design has moved accordingly with dog prints appearing on pretty much everything, from cushions to mugs. This of course isn’t new; animal prints are a mainstay of fashion and design. Notably, 72-year-old Snoopy continues to sell well for Japanese brand Uniqlo. But it’s interesting to watch how a broader animal themed trajectory that previously favoured wild beasts moved on to woodland animals and is now turning to domestic animals as motifs. It’s impossible not to conclude that our inspiration for print themes has moved closer to home, reflecting the events of the last two years.



The current take on dogs is also unapologetically urban. This is clearly not a hunting-shooting gundog theme that periodically does the rounds whenever aristocratic country life circles back for another reinvention. The newest dogs are pampered pets, often presented in a playful, almost cartoonish way.



A case in point, Emily & Fin designed a City Dogs shirt, covered in different breeds. Taking a more graphic approach, Arlette Ess has a striking Indian ink drawing of a pile of sleeping dogs printed onto scarves. Sophie Allport has a kennel full of designs featuring different dogs, while Sanderson even has, for reasons best known to the designer, a Dogs with Clogs wallpaper.



About as far away from gun dogs as possible, the two dogs enjoying the limelight at the moment are pugs and dachshunds. Both are small dogs that adapt well to urban and apartment living, and both appear in the top ten of the UK’s most popular breeds.* Both have distinctive profiles, useful for designers, and strong social media presence; #pug has 13.1 billion views on Tik-Tok, dachshund 13.7 billion.



Owners and fans just can’t get enough of pug and sausage dog merch; they appear on everything from oven gloves and pencil cases, to clothing and face masks. Joules even features a dachshund dressed in a perky red beret and stripy top, while Home & Hound have pug and dachshund candles.



For now, pug and dachshunds can be relied upon to sell, but dog fashion is fickle. It is worth remembering that globally the most popular dog in the world remains the ever reliable and amiable labrador, waiting patiently to return to selling household products. For designers, perhaps the core appeal of dogs is that there is always another breed to enjoy. As pug and dachshund themes wane, they can be reinvented as... a cocker spaniel?



MIX Magazine is a quarterly print and digital publication by our creative agency, Colour Hive and is available as part of Colour Hive membership.


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Image credits from top: 

Arlette Ess | Sleeping Dogs; The Met | Francisco de Goya y Lucientes c 1812-20 | Rabbit hunter with a retriever folio 103 from Images of Spain; The Met | Jean Honoré Fragonard c 1769 | Woman with a dog;  Sophie Allport | Dachshund