Canine Couture: Fine Dog Fashions Help Raise Money for Needy AnimalsPublished January 16, 2013
Originally from the Dominican Republic, Roberto Negrin is the creator of Hec-lin Couture for Dogs. We’re talking custom canine couture and dog fashion, as in ornate dresses and lavish costumes for charity events, red carpets, commercials and theater. He’s dedicated to pleasing pet-loving pooch owners. Now, before you poo poo this flashy finery let me tell you a beautiful story about saving a life.
“Hec-lin was in the vet clinic where my ex-partner used to work,” said Negrin. “He and I were married for years and for Valentine’s Day he gave her to me. She was only three weeks old and so little. She couldn’t move her back legs. The doctors wanted to put her down because she wasn't able to walk but I was so in love with her that I didn’t care what doctors said. She’s wasn’t in pain and I knew about wheelchairs. Then after three months of giving her therapy she could walk! Now she walks all the time in designer booties.”
Here’s more from my interview with Roberto Negrin yesterday:
What is the story behind Hec-lin’s name?
Hec-lin is a combination of my nickname, Carlin, that’s how my family calls me from my middle name, Carlos. Hector is my ex-partner. So, it's Hec-lin and she’s getting famous now! Hec-lin is featured in books, magazines and calendars. She has her own career as a model. It’s been a fun journey.
How many dogs do you have?
Four rescues. DJ is a Chihuahua, four-years-old. Sweet Abby is a three-year-old Yorkie mix whose mom had to sell her to raise money for her own knee surgery. Athena is almost two. She’s a Chihuahua adopted from a Canadian animal rescue group who had a respiratory illness and hypoglycemia. Now she's healthier than ever. All my dogs enjoy dressing up, even with elaborate headpieces and shoes. They all work as models. See? A rescue dog can go far in life!
How did all of this designing begin?
A couple years ago I did my first beauty pageant. At that point I didn’t know how to make any costumes but decided to enter the contest. With the help of my mother — who doesn’t like dogs — I made my first two dresses for Hec-lin and we won the crown. After that, my mother said I have to make the outfits. She showed me how to use the sewing machine and Hec-lin and I started going to meetups for dogs and competitions for animal charities and people began to notice that we kept winning and asked me who was making my costumes. When I told them I did, they became clients. The first two costumes were for Karen Biehl and Eli the Chihuahua, and Erika Searl also from the TV show Doggie Moms. For Karen, I made the Pope. The worldwide press was all over it. For Erika I made a cake to fit on top of her dog. Erika was dressed as Marie Antoinette. It was her idea and I make it come true for her. After that she was featured on NBC’s TODAY Show and Good Morning America. We’re enjoying a career by accident. [Laughs] I’ve been called by TV networks like New York Insider and Pet TV, and I’m hired to dress dogs of celebrities.
What’s the difference between gowns and costumes?
A gown is an everyday dress. They can walk comfortably and [it's] okay to wear to any event. Costumes are for competitions. My new Athena Collection, named after my dog, was inspired from togas, but with glamor, glitz and matching head boas. [Grins]
We have a very good clientele here in NYC. Halloween is my busiest season. One of my craziest designs was a peacock feather dress. A big event that got our name out was the $250,000 dog wedding. It got so much press. It was a benefit for the Humane Society of New York.
What other charities have you helped?
Since I was 16, I’ve been involved with organizations. I was helping the Latino community for AIDS outreach and education. I’ve donated dresses to the Alzheimer’s Association, groups for cancer research and help for the Sandy hurricane victims. Recently I reached out from Facebook asking people to donate toys and food. We filled up two trucks and delivered it personally.
What motivates you to help others?
My mother. She’s been my great inspiration. I come from a beautiful family. My mother and father always teach you have to help others.
Can you talk about your upcoming fundraising event?
Yes! It’s called, “The NYC Doggies & Tiaras Pageant 2013.” It will be held on Saturday, February 9, at the New Yorker Hotel from 5:30 PM to 9:00 PM. We are raising money for Inky Blue Sea Animal Rescue. Our gold sponsor is Fabuleash. There will be so many great prizes. Another sponsor is Pup Culture magazine. The winner will be featured on their cover of the fashion issue.
We are having superior designers coming from all over, from Europe, the UK and all around the United States. They are all donating prizes to the winners. We are raising awareness for people about this charity [Blue Sea] and how much they need funds to help the animals. You can imagine how happy I am!
Dorri Olds and Roberto Negrin
Is dressing dogs up for good causes okay? Please post your thoughts.