Sonya Michele - dog&boy
Sitting down with dog&boy creator Sonya Michele, Life Instyle found out how one small idea turned into timeless and sophisticated pieces for the everyday!
What was the spark that inspired you to start your own business?
Ironically, I never wanted to start my own business. It was never in the plan, and certainly never a ‘dream’ of mine. It was, literally, a comment from a friend one day in the dog park. I was frustrated about not finding what I wanted (I am a life-long scarf lover), and she said to me, “Well, design your own?!”. So whether it was timing, opportunity, or a simple moment of serendipity, here we are 4 years later!
What were those first steps you took to launch? And what would you say was the scariest part/your biggest fear?
My background is business and I have no formal training in fashion, everything was/is a huge learning curve. So everything we do, every collection is ‘scary’.
It’s hard to believe how in just 4 years we have evolved into an international brand with a loyal following of scarf lovers. It astounds me every day. We have grown in so many ways. I don’t think you ever loose that ‘fear’. My fear is more akin to wondering if I didn’t try something, did I miss a great opportunity??
Tell us a bit about how you design/ make your product.
dog&boy is not about creating ‘stuff’ or adding to what is a very noisy place. They are timeless and sophisticated pieces, to make women feel beautiful by adding something simple, but different to their everyday outfit.
Our design process is not driven by seasonal trends but created from the heart, telling stories through design. Like your favourite lipstick, our pieces are created to make you feel good and lift your spirits. The original prints are a conversation starter and complement your everyday outfit.
What is it that you think your customers love about your dog&boy?
It’s a combination of things - the original prints in each and every collection, the sublime pure natural fabrics of merino, silk and cotton, but mostly, I think, they are a special pieces that tell a story and makes the customer feel beautiful.
How do you stay inspired and authentic?
It always comes back to why dog&boy started – telling stories and making women feel good everyday, no matter their journey. All our designs are individual, created to connect with the customer beyond just a seasonal accessory.
Who would be your dream collaborator?
We have so many ideas – we’d love to design a capsule collection with a major art gallery, or have our prints featured on homewares like throws or cushions.
A dream collaborator though would be a print collaboration with a brand like Kleenex – bringing elegance and beauty to everyday – why shouldn’t your tissues look good on your bedside table!
What path led you to Life Instyle and what is it about the show that makes it a great fit for dog&boy?
Our product is very tactile, and customers fall in love with them as soon as they touch them. So we had to be where our customers shopped, where they sought beautiful pieces.
Buyers at Life Instyle come because they seek brands that are unique and beautiful. We have the privilege of working with so many wonderful independent stores and boutiques, many who have been with us since our first collection.
We launched our first collection with Life Instyle back in 2016. It was a great starting point for us and the introduction to the wholesale market. Even as a more established brand, Life Instyle has provided a great platform to develop our business.
Can you share any spoilers on what we can expect from your new collection at Life Instyle Sydney?
YES! It has been so hard to contain ourselves these last few months. We are so very excited to be launching dog&boy THE LABEL at Life Instyle Sydney.
dog&boy THE LABEL is a thoughtfully curated contemporary fashion collection designed with both beauty and function in mind, and, like our scarves, crafted in purely natural fabrics. These pieces will take you from work to dinner to weekends – and everywhere in between.
We are not a ‘full’ fashion brand, rather our original print collections complement the seasons' block colours and are perfect for trans-seasonal wear.
We can’t wait to show our stunning new range at Life Instyle!.
Who are some of the other brands at Life Instyle who you love/admire?
We have connected with so many amazing creators and brands over the years at Life InStyle, many whom we are proud to call friends…..our studio and my home is always full of the delicious scents from LoobyLou candles (#13 Gardenia & Basil is an all-time favourite), we also love our friends at Bubba Organics and their amazing collaborations with May Gibbs and Disney, and the boys from Memobottle are very clever – I admire clever designs that make my life easy.
Can you share one of your proudest moments in business so far?
We were only reminiscing on this recently. dog&boy is 4yo this January and there have been many proud moments, and many lessons learnt along the way, some harder than others. When dog&boy started, we had no idea where the journey would take us. I didn’t know if we’d be a success, or if we’d even exist four years later.
But here we are, an international brand with over 65 stockists in the US including major art galleries, and a new fashion range launching at Life Instyle this season.
There is no one particular moment that we are most proud of. Whilst we do stop and celebrate the wins, I’m usually thinking, ‘OK, we achieved that. So what else can we do? How else can we make this better and continually surprise and delight our customers?’.
What is the best piece of business advice you have been given?
No one will ever know your business as well as you do. So many times I've thought that, because I was inexperienced in something, I had to hand it over to an ‘expert’ and it has cost us time and of course plenty of dollars. I’ve learnt I don’t need to know how to do things, I just need to understand it. It’s been an expensive lesson.
What advice would you give someone else thinking of starting out?
Learn, read, understand, and seek advice, not solutions. I find many business owners who are starting out want the ‘one-stop-shop’ to get an answer rather than doing the hard yards. Despite what you read in the media, unicorns are unicorns for a reason, they are a mythical creature. Do the work and it will result in a more sustainable long term business.
What exciting things are on the horizon for 2020 and beyond?
LOTS of exciting things! Of course, the most exciting is the release of our fashion range, dog&boy THE LABEL which will keep us busy. We are also back in New York exhibiting and extending our market there. Our SS collection is well underway too and features some gorgeous new designs which we excited about. So keep watching this space!
When you’re not busy with the business, what’s your ideal way to unwind and give yourself a little bit of self-care?
I am fortunate that our studio in South Melbourne is purpose planned and built as part of our home, so I am conscience of not constantly being in the office. My favourite time of the week is Friday night; it’s movie night in our house with takeaway and a relax with the family.
JUST FOR FUN!
Karaoke song of choice?
Usually something from the early '90s - those were some of the good years!
I'm a big fan of Glossy, a podcast about fashion and technology and Lady Startup by Mammamia.
I don't believe in guilty pleasures. Life is to be enjoyed. Every. Single. Moment. But, I do love a creamy latte, and the odd pair (or several ;) ) of shoes each season.
Next holiday location?
Likely one of our stunning Victorian coastal towns.