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Calley Benoit Belli’s home is full of objects that remind her of her dog, Shuggie. Throughout the course of our conversation, she reveals them in kindergarten show-and-tell style, a tradition that should never be outgrown.
From the custom acrylic Edie Parker clutch that her husband, Ryan, designed for their wedding to a gifted ceramic portrait to a watering can with a white body and black spout that Benoit Belli insists is “similar to [Shuggie‘s] face,” there’s no shortage of his presence in their home and life together.
The fashion veteran (she cut her teeth at Marc Jacobs, Loeffler Randall, and Opening Ceremony) spoke with The Wildest about Edie Parker’s newly open custom commissions, her recent nuptials, and her tempered expectations for Shuggie on their wedding day.
Tell me about your dog! What’s his origin story?
My husband and I are huge fans of dogs in general. He actually had our dog for, I think, two years before we met. Shuggie (after musician Shuggie Otis) is now six years old; his birthday was at the end of August. We laugh because my husband paid $40 for him, which covered shots and fees when he got him. Shuggie’s mother was found in Arizona and somehow found her way to Topanga Canyon and had a litter of six or eight puppies — all looked completely different and our dog is certainly a mix of different breeds. We haven’t done the — what is it? 23andMe? So, we’re just left with a bunch of different assumptions based on every day and how he reacts and how we interact with him.
Shuggie is very much a part of our everyday conversation. We both work from home, so there might be little verbal dialogue, but I get constant picture updates: Shuggie on the lounge chair outside, Shuggie on the couch inside, so it’s a funny through line to our every hour conversation.
I saw that you made a bench in the likeness of your pup.
That started as an early pandemic project. We both love crafting. As a furniture designer, he was kind of the engineer behind it because he welded steel to make the base, and then we paper-mached it to be a giant oversized bench. It’s massive — I have a few pictures of Shuggie next to it. We call it “Shuggie Two.”
It was a funny project because during the pandemic we were just driving around to different areas where we could procure free newspapers to make it. It was a substantial amount of cement that we used as the binder instead of flour and Elmer’s glue, and then stacks and stacks of found newspaper. It was a satisfying project that was sad when we were done, kind of like completing a puzzle.
Has he inspired other pieces around the house?
We’re very dog obsessed. A lot of the items in our house are very much reminiscent [of Shuggie]. A lot of our friends have given them as gifts because they know how much we love Shuggie. It’s a funny thing because he has a white body and black head, but since Ryan and I have been together there’s been a strange evolution of black speckles that came about. I have freckles, so I like to think that I am that influence, and that’s how the freckles came to be.
One of my best friends has a brand called Zozo’s General. She makes these little dog ceramics and she made one for Shuggie, so that’s another example. I’m going to go a little abstract and obscure here: a watering can. It has a white body and a black spout, which is similar to his face.
Does Shuggie inspire all of your work?
Well, my partner and I love animals. My husband made this light, which we’re like, Oh it’s kind of Shuggie reminiscent — everything that is black and white, which is very generic, becomes Shuggie-inspired. So, there’s a lot of conversation, and I think it was very blatantly obvious when we got married, because any picture that the two of us took, we were like, Wait where’s Shuggie? Let’s get Shuggie in here. Which is really funny, because [he is] obviously an important part of our lives and certainly a consideration in many things we make together collaboratively.
Our photographer is also a dog lover, which was a big sell for us because we have a lot of portraits of Shuggie on his own from the day, while we were saying our vows (we got married at our house). One of my favorite pictures from our wedding was during the ceremony: Shuggie was facing the opposite way, laying on our porch, looking into the house. It was just the back side of him in front of all of us, he was like, This sucks, no snacks.
Congratulations on your recent nuptials! Did you incorporate Shuggie into the wedding in any way?
Listen, in a perfect world, our dog would deliver the newspaper to the front step, grab the leash when he was ready to go out, carry our rings down the aisle and follow us...but at the end of the day that’s not why we love him and there was absolutely no chance of that happening. We had this custom cake made by Alana Jonesmann, and Ryan made these little clay fimo figurines. For the clay toppers, it was the two of us, but obviously also Shuggie. It was a passive way that was a guaranteed incorporation of Shuggie that wasn’t going to disappoint.
For our wedding, Ryan made this custom clutch: It has Shuggie’s head and — it’s backwards, but we’ve both changed our last names to Benoit Belli. His last name is Belli and mine is Benoit, so we now have a very long name. We were able to memorialize it in this fun lighter bag. It was certainly a talking point at the wedding.
How did you get started at Edie Parker?
I have been with Edie Parker for a little over three years. My background is fashion. I worked at a variety of different fashion companies like Marc Jacobs, Opening Ceremony, Loeffler Randall and I was super excited to join the Edie Parker team and continue to work in fashion, but also to expand into a new market, which is cannabis. So, it’s extremely exciting for me to be a part of an up-and-coming market from a legalization standpoint and be a part of a brand that is pioneering and merging the world of fashion and flower.
Edie Parker’s custom pet portrait commissions recently reopened. As an animal lover, did you help with that process?
I am involved in the white-glove process. It’s funny, because I think that as a dog owner and a dog lover, I can appreciate the feedback that we got from different clients that are interested in the service. Basically, the process is that they send pictures of their pet and then our design team will take those pictures and then draw the likeness of the pet. There are times where we send a mock-up, and clients will be like, “Well, you know, my dog looks a little bit more sad than the picture” or “There’s a little bit more white under the chin.”
It’s those funny nuances — and pets are certainly, to a fair amount of people, family members, and so capturing the likeness of a person or a pet is extremely important. So, there’s a little bit of back and forth, and we want our customers to be happy and feel like the acrylic interpretation of their pet feels representative, so we welcome that open dialogue.
Have you always been a pet person? Did you grow up with pets?
Actually, there’s a funny picture that we discovered a year after being together. Both of these are Christmas pictures — one is of me with my siblings, one is of Ryan with his brother, but they’re literally identical. We had, like, the same dog growing up: a black Lab, which is kind of funny. Our mothers had both decorated them with red bows for a holiday family picture. It was funny unearthing that. I think one of us had shown the other and then it was kind of like, Wait a minute; I have that same picture. So, we had very similar experiences growing up with dogs.
Do you have any activities or rituals that you like to do with Shuggie?
We live in Pasadena — Edie Parker is based in New York, and I work on New York hours and I stay in one place essentially during those hours. So, around, like, 4:30 Ryan comes in he’s like, “OK, you need to walk around,” so that’s our time to go for a walk with Shuggie. Sometimes, as you know with dogs, he’s like a metal detector and we’re like, He’s walking us.
We have this route with him in our neighborhood in South Pasadena, which was established because one day we were like, Let’s let Shuggie decide where he wants to take a left, where he wants to take a right. But now it’s our planned route, and there’s spots along the sidewalk where he’s gonna cross, like, jaywalk across the street — we know his tendencies and exactly what side of the street he wants to be on at all times. So, it’s very predictable and it’s something we like to do every day.
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Avery is a writer and producer. She has written for numerous publications, including Refinery29, BuzzFeed, and V Magazine. When she’s not at her computer, you can find her reading, practicing her Greek on Duolingo, and delving into the Sex and the City discourse. She lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband and their cat, Chicken, who rules with an iron fist.