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Like many modern pet entrepreneurs, Mandy Madden’s journey to start her own business began with her dog, Hector, and her struggle to find luxurious, quality products for him that fit her lifestyle as a globe-trotting fashion and beauty influencer. “I would attend Fashion Week events in New York or Paris and see all these beautiful people [with their dogs] dressed from head to toe in [designer clothing] and I’d think, ‘Wow, Prada does not pair with Petco at all!’” she tells The Wildest.
Madden wanted pieces that were beautiful, durable, and sustainably manufactured; but she found the offerings from luxury brands like Gucci and Louis Vuitton rather limited, not to mention logo-heavy. “I wanted a harness [for my dog] that was also a piece of artwork,” she says, “something I could have for the next 10 years. So I decided to create it. I took all the money I saved from my work in the beauty and fashion space and used it to create my dream brand: Pagerie, an ultra-luxury fashion house for pets.”
Less than two years later, her LA-based brand is thriving, with points of sale including Harrods, Neiman Marcus, and Ssense, and a prestigious award from an iconic French brand synonymous with luxury leather goods: Hermès.
Congratulations on winning the 2022 Hermès Creative Award. What a fantastic achievement. How does it feel?
Surreal. I can’t take full credit, though. It takes a village to create a baby like Pagerie and I could not have done it without my amazing team. I thought we might be able to achieve something like this in 20 years, not two! It makes me feel so good about what we’re doing.
How did it come about?
Our managing director at the time, Olivia Jong, was told about the award by our copywriter and submitted us secretly. She didn’t even tell me. Then, one day, during our Monday morning meeting, she just announced that we’d won. Our jaws dropped. We couldn’t believe it. I thought it was a joke, at first.
It’s not hard to see why you won. Your products are gorgeous. I have to admit, though, I was a big agog at the prices the first time I saw them. They are on par with Louis Vuitton.
I think the prices reflect the quality of the items and the sustainability of their manufacturing. We aren’t taking any shortcuts to maximize profits. I knew it was going to be hard because we were creating a new market, but I also knew there was a need for it.
Sustainability is a word we hear a lot these days. What does it mean for Pagerie?
All of our materials are sourced from Europe, which has much stricter regulations when it comes to sustainability and climate change [than the US or other parts of the world]. Our leather, for example, is 100% REACH-certified vegetable-tanned leather. The REACH Certification is the highest certification that can be acquired in the European Union for any leather. The most prestigious handbags in the world all use REACH Certified leather because it is the best of the best.
Why not use alternative, vegan leathers?
Our research showed that the most durable vegan leathers are made from PVC, which is not biodegradable and can irritate the skin. We looked into materials like mushroom leather and apple peel leather, but they weren’t strong enough. We’re not just creating handbags. We’re making leashes that need to withstand constant pulling from a 50-lb dog. Our vegetable-tanned leather is strong, durable, and 100 percent biodegradable. It also absorbs the oils in your pet’s skin and fur and molds beautifully to their body over time.
We also use surgical-grade steel for all our hardware, which is 100 percent recyclable and non-allergenic. Most hardware is made from solid brass, which doesn’t perform all over time, or zinc, which can cause rashes. Avoiding potential allergens is especially important to me, since I have a French Bulldog [Hector] and they can be so allergy prone.
Tell me about Hector. How did you find him?
I was surfing the internet and I came across this tiny bulldog with a big bow around his neck, pink ears, and a wet nose and my heart just dropped. It was love at first sight. I called my husband and he was hesitant, but I was certain. He’s our first baby and is truly a member of our family.
Would you say he’s more of an extrovert or an introvert?
Extrovert. He loves being around people and thrives on attention. He loves laying on his back, which means dogs are comfortable and relaxed, and getting belly rubs. It's the cutest thing ever. He’s also very protective. Whenever he sees other dogs, he wants to protect us and tries to pull us away from them. And he loves just being a homebody and hanging out on our laps.
What’s your favorite thing about him?
I love all of the little noises he makes — his snores, snorts, and barks are the cutest. Whenever we go away and we can't take him with us, that’s what we miss most. He loves going with us on road trips. He thrives in new environments and we take him to Palm Springs often. He doesn’t fly with us because French Bulldogs aren’t supposed to fly because of their short snouts, but he loves long drives. [He also loves] watching TV! I’ve never met a dog before that actually watches TV, but he does. He interacts and barks at things on the screen. It’s incredible.
Does he ever model for you?
He’s modeled in the past for our holiday campaign, but we don’t have any photos of him on our website currently. He’s a great model, though, especially if I’m in the shot with him. I have a portrait of him on my desk in my office. I gush over him all day.
Have you always had dogs?
I’ve always loved animals, ever since I was a little girl growing up in Romania. I would find stray dogs and bring them food and create shelters for them. Finally, my grandmother decided I deserved a dog of my own and gave me Mickey, a little Pekingese. He was so cute and so well trained.
We had to leave Mickey with my grandmother when we moved to New Zealand, but then my mom got me Lucky: a Jack Russell and Fox Terrier mix. We caused so much damage together. We gave my mom grey hairs. But we had so much fun together. We would swim together in the inflatable pool in the backyard. We were best friends.
Then we adopted Ringo from SPCA. He was a Rottweiler that had been abused by his previous owners and he was two days away from being put down. He was such a sensitive teddy bear. He had a lot of emotional issues, but we were patient with him and he and Lucky became best buddies. They would sleep curled up next to each other; it was just the sweetest relationship.
I’ve been fortunate to have dogs at the most difficult transitional periods of my life to help me feel safe and comforted. Even Hector. When I first moved to America and LA, I didn’t have any friends, but having Hector made the adjustment so much easier.
And he inspired you to create this incredible brand. What’s next for Pagerie?
Pagerie isn’t just a dog brand, it is a way of living. Our motto is walk with quality and that can be expressed in so many different ways. We’re excited to expand into some new markets in the coming year, but I’m not ready to say exactly how just yet.
What about collaborations? Who would be your dream collaborator?
I’d love to collaborate with The Row. They’ve always been one of my dream brands. Quintessential luxury and quality. The Row or Khaite, which is another of my favorite brands out of New York.
Why not both!? Let’s manifest something right now.
I’m all about manifesting. Send out that good energy and you’ll always get it back.