“Our pets are a very important part of our lives. If we can afford it, I think we should give them the best, because they give us their best,” says Sia Aiwei, founder of pet fashion label The Pet’s Couture.
Indeed, the 40-year-old, who has six cats of her own, has dedicated her career to making pets look and feel their best – Sia has been designing fashion accessories for cats and dogs for more than seven years.
Sia’s designs range from the glamorous and luxurious to punk and gothic. She specialises in crafting beautiful and fanciful collars that are covered in a bewildering range of decorations such as lacy frills, metal studs and colourful crystals.
All of Sia’s works are painstakingly made by hand in a workshop in her home, a flat in Marine Parade. She sources her materials mainly from South Korea and Hong Kong.
There are other pet fashion labels in Singapore, including Ohpopdog, Dress A Pet and Little Cherry, but Sia was the first to start offering such services commercially in 2010.
These pet apparel companies provide clothing and accessories for animals, though Sia specialises in stylish collars, besides other accessories such as caps, scarves and bowties.
“Aiwei was the first pet fashion designer in Singapore,” says Angie Lim, publisher of Clubpets magazine, who has been in the pet magazine industry for 16 years. “She has great passion and love for pets, which motivates her to come up with the lovely collar designs she has created over the past decade. We have featured her collars in our magazine covers and fashion spreads numerous times over the years.”
Prices for The Pet’s Couture’s products range from $16 for bowties to $42 for collars. Customised collar designs may cost from $320 to $420, says Sia, depending on their size.
The company has an online store and also sells its products through retail chain Pet Lovers Centre. The brand sells around 50 to 80 collars per collection, says Sia, as well as hundreds of scarves per month.
Designing for celebrities, animal and human
Besides being a pioneer in the local pet fashion scene, Sia also has the claim to fame of designing for a couple of the most famous cats in the world – Nala from the US and Brother Cream from Hong Kong.
Nala was crowned the most popular cat on Instagram by the Guinness Book of World Records last year, with 3.6 million followers on the social media platform so far. The blue-eyed tabby recently appeared on the Steve Harvey talk show in April wearing a pink frilly collar designed by Sia.
Sia, being a fan of Nala herself, had made collars for the cute kitty a few years ago and sent them to her owners in the US. “It was just purely a fan moment, that I wanted to design something for her,” said Sia. “One was a bowtie and one was a fancy lacy collar, something very feminine.”
Sia has also designed several collars over the years for another famous cat – Hong Kong’s “convenience store” cat, Brother Cream, who has been featured widely in international media. Cream’s owners asked Sia to design a collar for him on his 10th birthday bash in honour of a charity foundation for strays set up in his name.
Besides cat celebrities, Sia has also created designs for the pets of many celebrities, including comedian Kumar and actors Utt, Desmond Tan, Ian Fang and Andrea De Cruz.
In fact, Thai-American actor-host Utt is a friend of Sia’s, and the two work together on a line of collars for The Pet’s Couture.
Labour of love
Sia started making pet collars for sale through a blogshop at the end of 2010. The former art director at an advertising agency had to leave her job to take care of her sick mother. At the same time, she was fostering two kittens that she had rescued from the streets. She began sewing bells onto the kittens’ collars so it was easier to find them when they scampered out of sight – and her hobby eventually became a business.
Asked what her design philosophy is, Sia says, “One word that describes my designs is ‘love’. My works represent the deep bond between pets and their owners.”
“I do not compromise on my materials,” she adds, pointing out that most of her collars are made with Swarovski crystals.
Sia will do what it takes to perfect her designs. “Sometimes I have to sew with pliers as the fabric is too thick for large dogs, and my skin will tear from intensive sewing,” she said.
The animal lover has a big heart for strays. She previously worked on an adoption drive with animal shelters Gentle Paws and Metta Cats, photographing dogs and cats “glammed up” with her collars for the publicity programme.
“The response was very good and half of them were adopted after the project,” says Sia. She currently has plans to work with a photographer to showcase animals from shelters every month, and hopes to eventually create a photo exhibition to raise funds.
“Aiwei is a humble and hardworking lady who helps out in the community whenever she can,” says Lim. “She’s a sincere and compassionate pet lover who’s really dedicated to being the best in what she does.”
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