From Rescued Dog to Fashion Model
Designer finds inspiration after saving dog from abuse.
Tony Rubio studied fashion design for people at the Fashion Institute of Technology years ago, but he didn’t like it, he says, because the models eventually wanted to alter his designs in some way.
But Bandit, his 10-year-old Chihuahua, never tries to change one stitch his owner and pet fashion designer adorns him with.
“He wears it all,” said Rubio, a Bronx native.
Rubio describes Bandit, a rescue dog, as his muse – but their creative collaboration was just as unplanned as their first meeting in Brooklyn.
Five years ago, Rubio received a phone call from his brother in Brooklyn. His brother had witnessed a group of people beating a Chihuahua outside on the street – the police arrived and passed the dog off to Rubio’s brother, telling him to bring the dog to the precinct the next day. He did so, but the police then on duty had no recollection of the story. Bandit went home with Rubio’s brother, and eventually found his way into the home of Rubio himself, a self-described “guy from the Bronx who likes big dogs.”
That quickly changed, Rubio says, when he recognized a special spark to Bandit. One day in a pet store, he and his partner joking placed a pair of doggie glasses on Bandit. Bandit pulled away, not wanting to take the glasses off.
Soon after, Rubio was encouraged to design Bandit a Halloween costume for a PETCO animal costume competition – Bandit’s spot-on, home-made Elvis creation led him to take first prize, and he soon after placed first in his category at a larger costume contest at Manhattan’s Tompkins Square Park.
Since then, Bandit and Rubio have taken off together, placing at countless fashion costume contests and appearing at various fundraising events with Rubio’s elaborate designs, tailor-made for the white and black, subdued Chihuahua who never tries to shake off a top hat.
He has both faux-fur white and black long coats with satin lining and Versace-modeled buttons, which go with matching faux-fur trapper hats whose sides pull down to cover his ears. He has a Zebra print suit, inspired by the zoot suits popular in the 1930s and 1940s.
Bandit will wear his functional, everyday clothing – like a puffy, gold coat embroidered with the letter “B” he donned on a recent chilly afternoon in an Upper East Side, Manhattan park – multiple times, Rubio says. But he will never re-wear an outfit he wears to a special event and is photographed in.
Rubio says he has lost track of how many outfits he has designed and sewn for Bandit, but estimates he has around 40 to 50 in his dresser.
“I do this just for fun,” Rubio explained. “I already have my career.”
But now, Rubio, who works in both special education and in interior design, is about to take his hobby as a pet fashion designer and stylist to a different level. Encouraged by friends in the New York dog scene, he is launching a couture dog wear fashion line next week, on BanditRubio.com.
Already Rubio has begun designing clothing – mostly ornate, bright dresses – for some dog owners who are willing to pay top dollar, starting at around $200, for a special outfit no other dog will have out on the town.
Rubio is also in the early stages of filming a reality television show, which will showcase three dog wear fashion designers.
And in his spare time, he is filling in his hours with special projects like designing tuxedos for “doggie nuptials” in Philadelphia, to be filmed by TLC.
“Five years ago if you saw a dog with clothing on it was a weird thing and everybody was like, ‘Wow,’” Rubio said. “Now you walk down the street and it’s just the norm. It’s a $50 billion, big, big industry.”
“People have no idea how it is in New York, but the fashion thing is starting to take off everywhere.”
What do you think of Bandit’s story from rescued dog to high-fashion model? Do you like to dress your pets? Tell us below!
4 years ago
Now that is what I am talking about from the streets to fame and fortune this chihuahua is not purebred he's a mutt and his life is now on the catwalk and he got a great second chance in life. I love stories like this I want stuff like this for all animals. Also Skitters will wear bandannas and sweaters when it is cold out but anything pink she will tear it up it's funny cause I have always hated the color pink and Skitters has hated too since she was a puppy I tried to put a pink banndanna on her which was her first one and she tried to tear it to pieces. As for Shorty he loves to play dress-up which is funny since he is a cat. As for Teddy she will tolarate a collar and that is all but when your not looking teddy takes off the collar she is a cat too so I geuss it's her tortatuide coming out. I think it is so awsome you rescued your fab pooch. See ya later Bandit and Rubio.
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