The Best Dressed Dogs Are Wearing Little Beast
Founder Jisu Kim on designing sweaters you’ll wanna steal from your dog.
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Scrolling through dog Instagram or taking a trip to the dog park in the hip part of town, it’s hard to avoid seeing a pup dressed in an outfit from Little Beast. The New York City-based company has made a name for itself by creating ultra adorable dog clothing that’s unlike much of what else is on the market. Whether it’s a parka vest, a bright green pullover sweater, or a baby blue fleece onesie, their dog clothes feel like human quality both in the materials used and the style of the garments. Especially when you never know what adventures you and your dog may find yourselves on, it’s a comfort to buy a well-made garment that’s sure to keep them looking cute and feeling warm for a long time. Below, we talk to the founder Jisu Kim about what inspired her to start the brand, her secrets to making dogs comfortable with clothing, and her dog Molly.
Why did you start Little Beast?
We initially started Little Beast selling collars and leashes. My husband and I thought there weren’t a lot of options for millennial dog parents who wanted high-quality, design-focused, and tasteful products for their dogs. I have a background in art and my husband has a background in online marketing, so we kinda made a perfect team from the beginning, but we needed someone who could make our vision come to reality. I asked my friend Lys who I used to work with at Takashi Murakami’s studio to become a partner; she’s now the creative director at Little Beast. In the winter of 2018, we launched all handmade collars and leashes, but it didn’t go well. We were super sad but quickly pivoted.
Considering our backgrounds and strengths, we thought it would be better for us to be a platform where we curate high quality dog products from other brands and makers. We were running that for a year and Little Beast started to pick up a bit but was not working out. In the back of my head, I always wanted to create our own products and really build a brand and community around it. I brought up the idea of dog clothes to my team one day and while they were skeptical at first, they trusted me to move forward. That’s how we became a dog clothing company.
Can you tell me about the process of testing your products?
It always starts with sourcing and creating the right fabrics. Dogs need something comfortable and soft. When I find or make the right fabric it gives me so much joy. All our fabrics are really carefully sourced and tested. As for the fitting, it is probably the most challenging process for me. Even now, before launching new products, I wake up at night worrying about fitting. Luckily, I have an amazing dog community who always let me try our samples on their dogs. We just have to try on our samples on many different types of dogs.
Tell me about your own dog!
Molly is a seven-year-old Border Collie / Lab mix. One day my husband, then my boyfriend, showed me a picture of a dog that someone from work was looking to give up. We agreed to have a quick meet-and-greet in Central Park to see if Molly would be a good fit for us. Molly ended up being bigger than in the photo and we were not ready for a big dog like her, but somehow we ended up coming home with her that same day. We always say Molly chose us — not the other way around. She’s honestly a perfect dog if there is a perfect dog...so well behaved and has so much love and excitement. We can’t imagine our life without her.
Does Molly have a piece to wear?
I think Molly’s favorite clothing item is our Picasso Sweatshirt. Weirdly she doesn’t get cold so she doesn’t need any heavy clothing. She would jump in the snow and be okay. I put on our Picasso Sweatshirt when we go out on weekends, so she loves it when I take the sweatshirt out from our shoe closet — she knows we are going OUT!
Do you have any words of wisdom for dog parents who are hoping to get their pups more comfortable with wearing clothes?
I think it is important to introduce clothing as a positive experience. I saw many of our customers introduce our clothes as security blankets first so their pups get comfortable with them. I think there are tiers in dog clothing: easy to more challenging. It is always better to introduce easier clothes like cotton rather than fleece and sweatshirts rather than onesies first. It takes time to get used to clothes, and we want to make sure it is a joyful experience.
You’re super thoughtful about finding ethically made products and food for your own dog. Can you tell me about your efforts to make sure Little Beast’s products are ethically made?
We source our fabric and manufacture our goods from small, family-owned factories in Korea and Vietnam where we have personal relationships with the team. I’m super conscious of where the products I purchase are coming from. I try to only buy from small and local businesses since I know there is more care, and that personal touch goes into each product they make. I love supporting them as I appreciate each and every customer and supporter of Little Beast. Going forward as we scale, I want to focus on sourcing recycled fabrics and become more sustainable.
Do you have any recommendations for particular products (or practices) that you turn to regularly as a pet parent?
I currently use a really well-made collar and leash from Found My Animal. Molly also has two bowls from MiaCara which are from Germany. They make beautiful products. As for food — she’s on kibble now, but as she gets older I do think we will switch her over to fresh dog food. She’s really healthy right now so no need for a change in diet, but as she reaches her twilight years we want to give her food that is super delicious and make her super happy.
I loved your recent collaboration with Wray. Is there anything in particular you learned from collaborating with a “human” brand? Do you see more collabs like that for Little Beast in the future?
We always wanted to do matching items for dogs and dog parents. One day I saw on Instagram that Wray’s founder bought our dog sweater and I reached out to her. We are both from New York City and they have a small team like us, so it was super fun and easy to work with them. Their team has a lot more experience in fashion than us, and what I really learn from them is true genuineness. That’s what I really want Little Beast to feel like to others. We have a long list of brands we would love to collaborate with.
Tell me about your experience within the pet community — have you learned any surprising lessons about pet parenting or more specifically, maybe, pet fashion?
I love and adore the pet community. From our social media followers to customers, each and everyone has been so sweet and supportive. We always think of them as our partners. We made so many mistakes and every time that happens our customers supported us and for that we are forever grateful. Having a business like Little Beast made us realize the world is a warm place. We are an e-commerce business but the whole experience felt more like building a community more than a company.
As for pet fashion, there is so much more we can do. When we first started we thought we were going to hit our limit pretty fast, but now we feel like we haven’t even really started. Everyone loves their pet tremendously, and they want the best for their pet. Our goal is to deliver the best for the pet and the parents and there is a long way to go for us to achieve that goal. At the end of the day, we always say we are not just selling dog clothes but we are delivering happiness and joy to our customers.
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Rachel Davies is a writer who has written for numerous publications including Vox, Wall Street Journal, and Architectural Digest and the parent of a beautiful Cocker Spaniel mix named Thea.