Behind the Brand: Sir Dogwood
Chicago pet accessories boutique owner Chaz Olajide on curating indie dogwear collections and supporting BIPOC-led brands.
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Whether it’s a handmade ceramic dog bowl or a cashmere turtleneck, dog life is a lot more glamorous than it once was. Chaz Olajide, founder of Chicago’s Sir Dogwood, helps pet parents navigate this stylish terrain. Through carefully curating dogwear from independent designers around the world and collaborating with makers to create limited-edition pieces exclusive to her boutique, Olajide’s work makes it a lot easier to find the seriously cutest stuff for our pups. And it doesn’t hurt that her Schnauzer, Beatrix, is a perfect model.
Beyond her focus on finding the best merchandise, Olajide seeks out women and BIPOC-led brands that are still the minority within the pet space. Sir Dogwood also supports the Chicago nonprofit One Tail at a Time, which aims to end pet homelessness, and CARE (Companions and Animals for Reform and Equity), an organization devoted to bringing diverse voices to the animal welfare community and making the road to adopting a pet more inclusive. All in all, the shop represents a more thoughtful way of pet parenting.
How do you go about curating what you stock?
One of the main goals I have for Sir Dogwood is to stock unique, aesthetically pleasing pieces. I am constantly (some might say obsessively!) combing different websites, checking out new brands, and creating relationships with makers all over the world to stay on trend in the dogwear and pet accessories scene.
What do you look for in a brand besides cool products?
I tend to pore over a brand’s mission to see who they are, what they stand for, and whether their values align with ours. If they donate to any pet-friendly causes, that is of course a huge bonus. I’m also always on the lookout for women and BIPOC-led small brands as well.
You also partner with emerging brands on exclusive items. What do you aim to create when approaching these projects?
It’s usually a combination of identifying a maker who is doing really interesting and unusual work, and collaborating with them to create something that addresses a hole I’ve identified in the market. Funnily enough, none of the brands I’ve approached for these partnerships have been pet brands, so I’ve been really lucky that they’ve been game to go a bit outside of their comfort zone! It’s been really fun to work directly with the makers on these projects to reimagine their current designs in a new, pet-forward way.
What’s your favorite thing to gift to Beatrix?
The mail literally just arrived with nothing for me, but a new Barkers Rex trench coat for Beatrix, so this is a very timely question! I love to gift her everything so it’s quite difficult to choose one thing. My favorite things to give her are new clothes because she looks ridiculously adorable in them. Her favorite thing to receive is most likely a new toy. I just gave her one of our Ember and Ivory macrame rope toys and she’s been proudly parading it around the house all day long.
What pet trends are you seeing becoming more and more popular?
The trend of wearing matching outfits with your dog has been going strong for a while and I don’t anticipate that slowing down anytime soon (particularly as we head into the holidays). I also think that the trend of throwing gotcha/birthday parties for your dog is here to stay as well.
Sadly, the pet care industry is not known for its diversity — with more than 90% of veterinarians being white according to one survey. In addition to your dedication to supporting BIPOC-led brands, what has your experience been running a Black-owned business in this space?
When I started researching the field before I started Sir Dogwood in 2016, it was a bit of a shock to see the lack of diversity in the pet industry. Even aside from the veterinary world, I didn’t see one BIPOC pet blogger or BIPOC-owned business at the time. So I saw that was a major opportunity for me to help bridge that gap, particularly since recent data backs up what I sort of anecdotally knew at the time, which was that BIPOC pet parents are the most rapidly growing segment of pet owners.
I would say that with the exception of a few racist outliers, my experience as a Black business owner has been quite positive. And, of course, even in a few short years the landscape has changed so much, and I’ve been privileged to meet other BIPOC-owned brands, pet parents, and doggie bloggers in the community, which has been an amazing experience. I’m also proud to say that Sir Dogwood supports nonprofit organizations like One Tail at a Time, which among other worthy goals, is working toward diversifying the veterinary field, as well as CARE, whose mission is to bring diverse voices to the pet welfare industry while advocating for inclusive paths to pet adoption.
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.