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New York-based artist-turned-fashion-designer Carly Mark and her rescue dog, Puppet, are inseparable. “I’ve never had such a genuine and pure bond with any living thing before,” says Mark, as Puppet curls up on some extra fabric beside her.
Mark’s label, Puppets & Puppets — named after her doggy love — debuted at New York Fashion Week in February 2019 and quickly became one of the buzziest new brands on the calendar. “A step in my [fine art] process was always costume-making,” she told Vogue that year. “I would develop these characters and then make clothing for them and style them. I was always sort of styling my sculptures. Creating sculptures always felt like that same process that a stylist has. We were making custom clothes for talents for various magazine covers, and we enjoyed it so much that we decided to just keep going.”
The brand went on a brief hiatus at the beginning of the pandemic but returned to the runway in September. “It didn’t feel right to be putting energy into creating something to sell as the world was navigating such chaos,” Mark told i-D in March. The new collection is Mark’s most commercially viable yet, but still maintains the distinctive downtown quirk that has made the brand such a hit with editors and the fashion/art set. With a growing list of sold-out accessories to drive the business forward and Puppet by her side to keep her entertained, Mark is ready to put the pandemic behind her and step into the future calmer, more focused, and, of course, covered in puppy kisses.
Congratulations on your Spring 2022 show! How did it feel to return to the runway?
Thank you! I was nervous, but I love the theatrics of a runway, so I was also excited.
Has the pandemic changed your relationship with fashion?
It feels calmer now. I feel calmer now. We work hard, we get the work done, but I’m thinking far less about “more” than I once was.
How was it spending so much time at home during the pandemic? Puppet must have loved having you around so much!
It was a much-needed break, despite how we ended up there. Puppet did love it — we’re closer than ever now. I have trouble being away from him. Having him as a companion really helped with the anxiety I felt during the pandemic.
Do you bring Puppet with you to the studio?
I do! We walk to and from the studio everyday. The whole team loves him — he brings us constant comedic relief.
You actually named your brand after Puppet. What inspired that decision?
I always say it’s his brand, not mine. At the end of the day, he’s the priority over everything. Given how much love he’s brought into my life, the least I can do is honor his name.
Would you say your work is inspired by Puppet?
There’s a lot of humor in the brand. Puppet is a very funny creature. He definitely inspires us to laugh more while making the garments.
Any plans to put Puppet on the runway?
If the shows didn’t make him so nervous I would. Maybe I’ll hold him and walk the show one season.
How did you settle on the name “Puppet” in the first place?
I love Ghost in the Shell. The villain in the film is the Puppet Master. My best friend and I have matching Puppet Master tattoos, so naming him Puppet made sense.
Do you ever design clothes for Puppet?
We’re working on it!
Does Puppet wear clothes?
He has a few winter onesies from DoggyStyle here in the City.
How did you find Puppet?
I went to a shelter in LA with no intention of adopting. My friend Michael fell in love with him immediately but already had two dogs at home. He begged me to take him, but I was resistant. At a certain point, Michael put Puppet in my lap. Puppet licked my face and completely relaxed in my arms. I must have dissociated because when I came to, I was $50 poorer and walking out of the shelter with him still in my arms. There was never a moment that he didn’t know I was the one who walked him out of that place. We’ve been completely bonded since.
What is the best part about being Puppet’s person?
Everything is the best part! I’ve never had such a genuine and pure bond with any living thing before.
What is it about him that makes him so special?
He makes amazing eye contact, he sings when he hears sirens, he loves salad, he bites your butt when the doorbell rings, no matter how big the bed is he sleeps right on top of your body, he loves to throw socks in the air and catch them by himself. So many things.
The fashion label’s playful, prismatic designs are going to the dogs.
“My cats are kind of like my best friends. I wanted to design accessories and cat care items that a human being would want to use.”