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Who's the most fashionable dog of all?


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POSTED: Thursday, May 14, 2009

Designer Valentino thought he was the star of the film about his work, “;Valentino: The Last Emperor,”; playing at Kahala Theatres. That may be true among the fashion set, but ask a dog lover, and as far as they're concerned, his pugs stole the show.

At the Web site www.valentinomovie.com, there was even an associated Pug-O-Vision pug contest in which pug owners were asked to enter photos of their dogs, with winners to be selected by Valentino himself.

Out of 475 entries, Ito Montgomery Aldridge-Lungren of San Francisco was the grand prize winner, dressed in a wig and oversized sunglasses a la Anna Wintour. Jolly from New Hampshire finished second. And the third place winners were Blue, Bono and Roxy of Northern California, whose owners, Phillip and Susan Lauer, have Hawaii ties.

“;We entered the contest because as a pug owner, Valentino is a kindred spirit. It's a pug thing, I guess; you just have to be owned by one and you would know,”; Phillip said via an e-mail interview. “;And then there is the opportunity to have someone of such stature, an icon of fashion in the 20th century, to look at your work and acknowledge it. OMG, that was prize enough.”;

The actual prize is a collar from the House of Dog, so the three dogs will have to fight for it, though Susan said if they like it, they'll get matching collars for the other two.

That the couturier owns six pugs doesn't surprise the Lauers.

“;We think pugs are better in groups, which might explain why we have three,”; Phillip said. “;A lot of pug owners we know have more than one pug.

“;Pugs love attention and most will do anything to please you and make you smile and laugh, so I think a lot of pug owners like to dress up their pugs,”; Phillip said.

The photos on this page may suggest otherwise, but he said, “;Most of the time our kids are naked! They wear hoodies when it's cold and we also make a wettable shami-cool coat to keep them cool on those really hot summer days. They are also very used to costumes and have won awards over the years in costume competitions around California.”;

The dogs are wearing parkas designed and made by Susan, who started dressing the dogs for an annual Pug-o-ween event in Lodi, Calif., a benefit for pug rescue.

Susan, who grew up in Hawaii Kai, makes all the costumes for the pugs, drawing on her degree in fashion design from the University of Hawaii. She moved to California in 2000 and worked from home doing computer grading/pattern making for a company in Hawaii for a few years.

“;Then we got Roxy and Blue (they are litter mates) and I started making fleece hoodies for them to wear to the dog park,”; she said, because of the chilly, foggy morning weather.

“;We take them to many pug get-togethers. They call them Pug Sundays here. People starting taking notice of our pugs' clothing and that is how it all started,”; she said. “;I use the same fashion design principles and techniques for the pug clothes as I would for human clothes. It comes in handy.”;

The couple now has a small company, Pupstar Sonoma, selling Susan's custom designs for pugs and other small dogs. Costumes generally run $40 to $50. She also makes $75 parkas which include a matching pompom leash, $45 raincoats and beds for $25 to $60. Although she knows of one woman who sells costumes for up to $150, she said, “;I try to stay a bit below that because I don't know THAT many well-to-do people ... at least not yet!”;

That may change with any notoriety from the Valentino win.

Phillip's background is in photography and graphic arts and he worked in the art department at Crazy Shirts for nearly 20 years before the couple moved to California, where he works at Landor Associates, a global design and brand consulting firm. At home, he makes time to manage the Pupstar Sonoma brand, graphics and Web site.

The family remains a member of the Honolulu Pug Club, although they haven't been able to attend events. If they did, they may be the best-dressed of the pack.

“;Generally speaking, pugs do like to wear the costumes,”; Susan said, adding it may not always appear that way in the photos.

“;Anytime I try on a new outfit/costume they act like we're torturing them. It does make for very funny photos because they look like they are pouting, which they are. But what ends up happening is that I work on one costume at a time and try it on one particular pug. That one gets a lot of attention and the others get jealous. Pretty soon 'the one' is starting to act like a king and starts prancing around in the costume.”;

Ah, even dogs know, it's good to be king.

See all 475 entries at www.valentinomovie.com. Go to web.mac.com/plauer4 for Pupstar Sonoma info.