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When Tiziana Agnello started searching for the perfect dog carrier back in 2012, she wasn’t satisfied with the options on the market. None of the carriers combined function, comfort, and locally sourced production the way she hoped for — plus, most of them were sorta tacky. But in a situation when most people might sigh and compromise, Agnello got to work.
She made LoveThyBeast’s first product, a black tote bag carrier, for her dog, Gzigzia — and when all the dogs at the park got jealous of Gzigzia, Agnello made a whole lot more. Since then, the brand has evolved to include toys (including a plush Grateful Dead ticket and a stuffed “White Paw” can), tie dye hoodies, leashes, beds, bowls, and anything else a chic city-dwelling dog could crave. Cats can also get in on LoveThyBeast’s adorable catnip toys, treats, and beds. We talked to Agnello about the process of starting her own business and the delightful chaos of the brand’s annual sample sale.
Have you always been pet-obsessed?
I was a huge animal lover as a kid, and my mother wasn’t. We only got to have outdoor cats, and we had one in particular who was this oversized orange tabby — he was amazing. Growing up, my uncle would let me help train his Dobermans, so I was always around these larger dogs. I remember being amazed at how we would teach him to knock over the phone; I would pretend to die and he’d flip the phone over, because back in the day if your phone fell off the hook, it would dial 911.
Once I was able to, I got cats of my own because they fit with my lifestyle more — I was traveling a lot at the time. I was about 21 when I got my black Pug, Gzigzia.
What inspired Love Thy Beast?
I started LoveThyBeast about a decade ago on my kitchen table. I was a prop stylist for my career; I worked on set with everyone from Smirnoff to Martha Stewart. I had a knack for sourcing materials, and I had taught myself to sew at a very young age as well. I had a Pug who I rescued off Craigslist, and she was my everything. She came with a handicap; she limped often and she always had sore hips. She had been in a car accident before I got her.
She and I were the best of friends. As she got older, I was sourcing a carrier for her because her joints were getting stiffer. Everything I found on the market was very Y2K glitzy or leopard-print or faux fur — or the opposite, very preppy and yuppy. I just didn’t fit into those molds at all. I thought that was really strange — like, why isn’t there a carrier that isn’t covered in logos? I wanted it to be sophisticated — utilitarian but chic.
So I made a black canvas bag for myself. As I was taking the subway and bringing her to work with me, people would ask me where I’d gotten my bag. I started to see that people were into it. I went to a local store in Williamsburg called PS9Pets. I showed the bag and they were like, “We need that.” I made about 10 or 12 in the black and olive colors, and they sold out within a week.
Did you immediately know then that LoveThyBeast had huge potential?
I’d come up with a name for the company at that point, but I wasn’t thinking of quitting my career and starting a pet company; I was just excited that other people were interested in it. I come from a long line of entrepreneurs, so it was a no-brainer for me to decide to do a side business plus my career. After two years of doing LoveThyBeast, I ended up leaving the photography and still-life world and pursuing LoveThyBeast full time.
How would you describe Love Thy Beast to someone just finding out about you?
I like to tell people we’re the friendliest dog at the dog run. We just want everyone to look and feel amazing and have a great day. When you shop with us, we’re a breath of fresh air. We’re friendly and welcoming, letting dogs know when something brings out their eyelashes or the highlights in their tail.
What’s your favorite LoveThyBeast product?
I think my favorite is still the canvas [bag] I built by myself 12 years ago. She’s a classy b*tch, what can I say? Outside of that, last winter we came out with wool hats to match our pup sweaters, which is my next favorite product.
I’m excited about a new favorite coming out. We’re doing a line of training treats, and we have a new all-black bag coming out that functions as a walking bag. It looks really chic; it reminds me of Kate Spade bags from the nineties. It’s a super simple black cross-body bag, but it has the perfect amount of compartments inside. There’ll be a little poop-baggy holder where the baggies will come from the inside but you can pull from the outside.
And there’s a cute square pouch around the heart center where you can easily access treats. I always bring my treat pouch with me attached to my canvas pet tote; I keep coffee money, keys, and treats in there. Since there aren’t zippered compartments, sometimes things tumble and get all mixed together. This time, we made separate compartments for treats and a zippered area for personal items, so you have the option of keeping things apart and you’re not dusting off your keys because it’s covered with some freeze-dried treat.
What has been the most rewarding part of creating the brand?
The most rewarding thing is when people come in with bags or jackets they’ve had for so many years. If I just sit in one place in Manhattan at a park or something, it’ll take maybe 10 or 15 minutes to see a bag of ours carried by. I can tell which generation a product is from, and I love seeing ones that are older and still look so good. Especially with our bag line, which we’ve made in Brooklyn for ten years with materials made and dyed right in Jersey, I’ve put so much heart and soul into making sure the products would last a lifetime.
Tell me a bit about the upcoming sample sale! What can people expect?
The first year we did it, we were like, “Oh, it’s a casual two-hour sample sale after hours. People can just stop by after work.” And then the line was 72 people deep. I remember counting it and freaking out. We ended up extending it so people could come back throughout the weekend.
The following year, we learned how to make it more efficient. We do implement a 10 to 15 minute time limit so people aren’t turned away when they see the line. I don’t want anyone to feel unhappy that they missed out. We’re there to help you size your dogs. A lot of people do come in for holiday shopping, so sometimes we look at a pup’s Instagram to help people find the right size. We have a lot of knowledge, so you shouldn’t feel nervous that you only have a short amount of time. Fifteen minutes is actually a lot of time to make these decisions. We organize everything in bins by size, and they’re priced on the outside. Another thing is it’s a cash-only sale. I’m sure everyone knows that small businesses are hit with lots of fines and fees from credit card processing, so it really does help us in the end if it is cash only.
We don’t mind if pups come, and we encourage it, but we do point out that if the dog is timid in large crowds or with other dogs, it maybe isn’t the best environment for them. I’d advise coming closer to the end of the day if that’s the case.
This year, we have 10 hidden products that will actually be free. Only me and the staff know which items they are, so when someone gets to the register with the product, we’ll announce it and do a little dance or something. We like to keep it fun.
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Sio Hornbuckle is a writer living in New York City with their cat, Toni Collette.