For more than 10 years, Eloise Monaghan and Florian Semanaz had a successful creative partnership at Honey Birdette, designing the products and experiential retail stores that helped turn the luxury lingerie label into a powerhouse brand, which Playboy bought for $443 million in 2021. Now, less than a year after exiting the business, they have reunited and are looking to take a big bite out of the US$150 billion global pet care industry with the launch of Sgt Puppa, a fashion and lifestyle bra
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brand for dogs and their pet parents.
“There’s definitely 300 stores in this brand,” Monaghan told Inside Retail ahead of the launch of Sgt Puppa’s first store at Fashion Show Las Vegas this week.
The brand’s debut collection, called Hump Day, features around 20 products, including dog apparel and accessories, such as leads, backpacks, food bowls and water bottles, as well as cooler bags, athleisure and other items for humans in a limited-edition print.
With only 1000 pieces of each product made, the collection is designed to sell out, making room for the next drop. Sgt Puppa aims to drop about one collection per month, with a big focus on collaborations and special designs for each new city it enters.
At the top of the list are Houston, Austin, Dallas, San Diego, Miami and Los Angeles.
“The Houston collection will be more country western, and the Miami collection will be a pimped out kind of range,” Monaghan said. “It’s still a bit provocative, but in a really cute, middle-America kind of way.”
Sgt Puppa offers matching products for pets and their humans. Source: Supplied
‘Going to be a cracker’
Soft launching on 7 February, the Sgt Puppa store in Las Vegas features a barbecue treat station, bone-shaped display tables and a large rainbow painted on one wall, signalling the brand’s commitment to equality as well as its bright and fun persona.
“Instead of being in high heels and red lips, the team is going to be in tailored slacks and beautiful aprons, which are very much in that rainbow colour,” Monaghan said.
Despite the recent online shopping boom, she sees bricks-and-mortar stores as being key to Sgt Puppa’s growth.
“Online is important from a communication perspective, but I’ve never lost faith in bricks-and-mortar, and I think that needs to come first,” she said.
“It is the experience and the tactile feel. I think that’s where a lot of brands struggle, because they go straight to online. It is cheaper, but with something like this, you need people telling you about the product. It creates more excitement – and confidence as well.”
Las Vegas was selected as the first location in part because of its transient demographic. Monaghan and Semanaz believe it will give them useful insights into what demand looks like in other regions around the US.
“It’s a great site, but it’s also giving us a bit of a trend line to see what sells,” Monaghan said.
“We’re going to test and refine, but she’s going to be a cracker.”
More than 400 guests and their fur babies are expected to attend the Sgt Puppa launch party on 10 February, where there will be a DJ, cocktails, VIP shopping, poker machines that dogs can pull for treats, golden-bone tickets and prizes.
Each collection features a limited-edition print or design, like the upcoming Hot Diggity Dog range. Source: Supplied
Right place, right time
While there are plenty of big retail chains targeting pet owners, Monaghan believes Sgt Puppa is one of the first brands to offer a fashion and lifestyle range for pets and their owners.
“We’re not doing shampoos, conditioners, and brushes. We’re not about the daily upkeep,” she explained. “We’re more about the lifestyle. We’re for the gay [customer] walking to the park in his yellow raincoat, and his dog is walking in the same thing.”
Going forward, she said about 50 per cent of each collection will be pet products and 50 per cent will be for humans.
The brand is also partnering with Best Friends Animal Society, the biggest no-kill animal shelter in the US. It has already made a confidential but significant donation, according to Monaghan, and will launch special collections to raise funds for the organisation in the future.
“I think we’re getting into the pet space at exactly the right time. You’ve got your mass market retailers with all the paraphernalia they have, which serves its purpose. This is definitely more fashion,” she said, comparing Sgt Puppa to the likes of Lululemon and Psycho Bunny.
“We’re not Louis Vuitton, nor do we want to be. We’ve kept the price point pretty reasonable, so we can get the volume. It’s prestige, but at a mass price point.”