Life Instyle sat down with Sonya Michele, Founder of Dog&Boy to discuss hard lessons learnt as a small business owner, and her new collection Dog&Boy THE LABEL.


What is the meaning behind the name dog&boy?

After, ‘how do I style my scarf’, this is one of the most asked questions!

Well, yes, I do have a dog, Barry the Chocolate Labrador (he is as big a softie as he sounds, and regularly makes a cameo at our photo and content shoots!), and a boy, my son Nicholas. But the name is much more than literally just that; it is about the unequivocal youthful spirit of imagination, the possibilities of what could be, and the desire to make it happen.


What is the inspiration behind your unique prints and designs, and what do they mean to you?

I’m an emotional buyer when it comes to my wardrobe, and I buy pieces because of how they make me feel when I wear them, so designing our prints it is no different.

We consider ourselves storytellers, creating a visual construct to a moment in time that made us feel good.  Our design stories are created to prompt the wearer to recall a moment in their time that was good and happy and brought them joy.  It’s about connection.


Who or what is your ultimate muse?

We’re inspired by the simple moments in every day.  Cliched as it is, in such a busy world we don’t take time often enough to appreciate or enjoy those fleeting moments in time – the cheekiness of our young child, the sound of a loved one’s voice, the feeling of pure joy.

As famously quoted, ‘Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you may lookback and realise they were the big things’ (Robert Breault).

Our design stories are moments we’ve personally experienced and how we felt in that moment.  But these aren’t just our stories, with a change in variables, these moments could really be anyone's.


What is your favourite piece in your collection, and why?

I’ve always been a scarf lover, it’s why I started dog&boy!, but there are always favourites each season. 

For AW2021, I’m loving our scarf design Prequel which is all about the chance to start again, even when you make mistakes. The base photo is the classic redbrick New York apartment block with fire escapes.  I captured the image whilst wandering Soho during our last tradeshow visit to New York in January 2020 (a lifetime ago now!). 

Our foray into international markets hasn’t been without challenges these last 2 years, but being there, wandering the streets of Soho and its energy, reminded me that despite the mistakes we’ve made (and as any small business will attest, they are many!), it doesn’t define you or your brand or what it is we set out to achieve.  It’s simply a part of the journey. 


Can you share any spoilers about any new products you’ll be showcasing at Life Instyle Sydney?

The exciting thing about dog&boy is that every season is ‘new’. Each season we release a new collection of designs so there is always something different.  We don’t keep repeating the same design in numerous colourways season after season.

But I’m most excited to release our SS2021 collection – we’ve some stunning designs for the season with hand-made tassels, and the colourways are soft and gentle, perfect for complementing the earthy muted tones that are featuring.

Our fashion range, dog&boy THE LABEL, has gorgeous easy wear pieces in sophisticated prints for spring-summer styling.  My favourite is the Camille shirt in Perception.


How do you think your pieces elevate women?

When I started dog&boy, I never just wanted to make ‘stuff’.  We had to create with purpose and intent. 

We wear clothes, generally, not just because they are functional, but because of how they make us feel.  Think of how you feel when someone tells you how gorgeous a certain colour looks on you, or that your fav lipstick really brightens your face.  That simple comment will lift your spirts and mood, no matter the situation. 

We are not a trend-driven fashion forward brand.  We are about adding something simple, but gorgeous to your everyday wardrobe to make you feel good.


Tell us about your new line, dog&boy THE LABEL. How is this label different from your original line?

Scarves are our OG; it’s why we started dog&boy. But not everyone wears a scarf and sometimes the weather doesn’t always make it feasible.

dog&boy THE LABEL is about extending our best-selling scarf designs to create a considered fashion collection in our original prints.  The prints are sophisticated and modern in relaxed silhouettes that are easy to war and can be styled numerous ways.


What are you most looking forward to at Life Instyle April?

People and connections.  Before the restrictions last year, we kind of just went through the motions of doing the show each season, but when they were ‘gone’, we really noticed. 

Exhibiting at Life Instyle for us isn’t just about taking orders and making sales; it is connecting with our buyers, other exhibitors and the market in general.  I didn’t really consider how much impact these conversations had for new ideas, future planning and future collections.  We can’t wait to be back IRL!


What memory stands out the most from your stand at Life Instyle Sydney 2020 (pre-COVID)?

February 2020 was exciting as it was the release of our first fashion collection, dog&boy THE LABEL.  It was exciting and scary moment all at the same time introducing something so different.  You never know how your buyers will react, but we were delighted with the response.  Since then, we’ve continued to refine our fashion collections and can’t wait to show what we’ve been working on.


What is the hardest lesson you’ve learned as a business owner?

Oh, there is never just one hard lesson!  Every moment as a business owner is a learning.  But trusting yourself is definitely the hardest lesson to learn.  You always assume that someone else has the answer or knows better, but really, it comes down to you knowing your business and what is best for it.  Certainly, seek advice, get opinions, but no one knows your business better than you.


How does running your own small business compare to your previous career path?

My previous career could not be more different to what I do now! There is no comparison. 

I spent 20+years in the corporate world of banking, finance and consulting.  Naively, and with a healthy dose of blissful ignorance, I thought, ‘I’ve spent all this time in corporate; how hard can a small business be?!’…. shall we just say this was my very first hard lesson in owning a small business!


What is on the horizon for dog&boy in 2022 and beyond?

The return to IRL tradeshows and meeting with our buyers again!  Beyond that, we are always mindful of opportunities for the business and growing the brand.  We create for our customers and don’t follow the latest trends and fads.

We’ve gorgeous collections in the works for 2022, as well as some special projects which we’re excited about. Ultimately, we tell stories through design and aim to make our customers feel good; it’s what we do best and will always do.


Favourite wellness routine?

My evening showering is much more than just getting clean.  It’s time to enjoying the soothing steam and relax to metaphorically wash away the day; cleansing my skin, then stepping out with the richness of my skincare and lathers of body cream. 


Bucket list travel destination?

I so miss travel! During lockdown, my son and I wrote with a bucket list of places to go and do.  On the immediate list are touring the South Island of NZ including abseiling and whitewater rafting; 2 weeks in Singapore to walk-eat-drink-repeat; and a winter holiday to Japan visiting the onsens and snow tobogganing. Of course, it is an endless list, but I think these are a good place to start!

Your self-care must-have?

Scent is linked so strongly to our memories and emotions.   We always burn candles in the studio and #13 gardenia & basil from LoobyLou candles is a regular – it’s an enveloping warm floral with the freshness of basil. 

I also love the quotes Kere’s puts on all her candles – #13 is the famous one by Lao Tsu, ‘A journey of a thousand miles, begins with a single step’.  That’s kind of how we feel at dog&boy – it’s a journey, one step at a time.


Last book you read?

I recently picked up my son’s school book-club book ‘Scythe’ by Neal Shusterman – for a young adult genre, it was good!  It’s set in a dystopian future where the human race has conquered hunger, disease, war and misery, as well as death. It was a great read, but it was also very thought provoking.