The Don Of Doggie Couture

Anthony Rubio’s rise to being a fashion plate for the four-legged set

Anthony Rubio strolling through the Parisian streets with his boys/muses/Chihuahua brothers Bogie (left) and Kimba (right)
(Photo courtesy of
Anthony Rubio Fashions)

It all started with a little dog that stole then-aspiring fashion designer Anthony Rubio’s heart. The little pooch’s name was Bandit and he was the inspiration for what became
Anthony Rubio Designs.
The namesake of the company is a Bronx native who has spent nearly two decades carving out a niche for himself in the fashion industry with a term he coined himself—Master Pet Couturier. For Rubio, who has spent the past 30-plus years as a New York City educator, fashion has been a passion dating back to childhood. Rubio, the middle sibling of three brothers, grew up in Bronx public housing with his Puerto Rican-born grandmother, mother and two brothers after his father left when he was five years old.

An Anthony Rubio Design featuring women’s wear and a matching doggy dress
(Photo courtesy of
Anthony Rubio Fashions)

While his mother taught herself English and went on to become a Spanish teacher, the apartment was also where both women made extra money doing piece work as seamstresses. This proved to be the spark of inspiration for Rubio.
“I say a lot of what I do comes from my heritage—the sewing from my grandmother and the fashion and style comes from my mother, who I give credit to all the time,” he said “I got to see my mom in the ‘60s and ‘70s, busting out mini-skirts, bell bottoms, platform shoes—everything that was hot at the time, my mother wore.”

Libby, the Maltese/Yorkie models a fabulous multi-tiered couture dress
(Photo courtesy of
Anthony Rubio Fashions)

After graduating from Catholic school, Rubio’s portfolio was good enough to gain him entry into the Fashion Institute of Technology (F.I.T.), where he thrived before having to transfer to Lehman College after commitments to his mother and grandmother prevented him from going to Europe to serve as an apprentice. His fashion dreams were on hold until his older brother, who was living in Brooklyn, called him to say he should come rescue a dog being beaten on the street. When Rubio arrived and was allowed to take the dog to the vet, the pooch that became Bandit was found to be severely abused.

Bruno, the uber-fabulous Yorkie prances proudly wearing a custom reptile print tuxedo with matching top hat
(Photo courtesy of
Anthony Rubio Fashions)

His new owner nursed him back to health within a year and on a whim, made some homemade fashions to enter Bandit into a Petco costume contest that he handily won.
“I knew how to sew, but since I only knew how to sew for people, I had to adapt to animal physiology,” Rubio recalled. “I designed patterns and experimented, eventually creating an outfit encrusted in Swarovski crystals that made him Elvis. We went into Petco and there were all these dogs ripping their costumes off that were flimsy and cheap. I asked my partner if he saw how awful these designs were and when I took the coat off, everyone turned around and said he won.”

Bandit kept winning and Rubio’s designs eventually led to appearances in the Daily News, the New York Times, Entertainment Tonight, Newsweek and myriad international outlets. Rubio also became the first pet fashion designer to showcase at New York’s Fashion Week in February 2012.

Hollywood the Leonberger, one of the
many large breeds Anthony Rubio designs for
(Photo courtesy of
Anthony Rubio Fashions)

The fashion designer was forced to pivot when Bandit and Rubio’s main inspiration, his mother Hilda Colon, both passed away within a year of each other back in 2015. Chihuahua twin siblings Bogie and Kimba (named for the lead character of a 1965 anime) became the heirs apparent shortly after. At the same time, Rubio was forced to put himself more front and center for his brand, despite a reluctance to do so.
“The label used to be called Bandit Rubio designs, but when [Bandit] died, my partner Robert said we had to figure something out or the business was going to die,” Rubio said. “Since I was the designer, he said I should be in front of the camera even though I hate having my picture taken. Playing around, I put on sunglasses. He said that was it—this persona I had no plans to create revolving around my wearing these shades. Every time I take a picture, I’m wearing these classic Aviator sunglasses.”

Rubio’s success has led to his being part of 15 separate Fashion Weeks, with him being deep into prepping for upcoming shows in New York and Los Angeles. Adopted when they were only two months old, his doggie muses have adapted to the hustle and bustle while becoming busy world travelers.
“I don’t travel anywhere if I can’t take my dogs,” Rubio said. “Bogie and Kimba have been to Ibiza, Barcelona, Valencia, Milan, Rome, Amalfi, Amsterdam, Germany, Belgium—they’ve been everywhere. People tell me they want to be my dog in their next life.”
Rubio’s doggie fashions start at $300 and have sold for as high as $10,000, a price point he attributes to meticulous craftsmanship and a maniacal eye for detail.

Standard poodle
modeling a Parisian-theme customized dress
(Photo courtesy of
Anthony Rubio Fashions)

“This is a one-of-a-kind luxury product that clients are willing to pay for,” he said. “I spend a lot of money on the most expensive fabrics and things like crystals and gold. I cut into pieces and create my own fabrics from that, so they’re getting what they pay for. And I have clients who take clothes I make for their dogs and put them on mannequins like I do and turn them into art pieces. Or they hang them in frames because it’s a memory.”

With Rubio ready to go full-time as a Master Pet Couturier, he’s also become a pet advocate, raising millions for organizations like the Humane Society and Guide Dog Society. It’s a cause Rubio is passionate about.
“I am the voice for those who cannot speak,” he said. “I’m not making a fortune, which I could easily if I was more business-minded and money-oriented, but my thing is about saving animals.”

Visit www.anthonyrubiodesigns.com to find out more about the Master Pet Couturier.

 

Dave Gil de Rubio
In addition to being editor of theNassau Observer, Dave Gil de Rubio is a regular contributor to Long Island Weekly, specializing in music and sports features. He has won several awards for writing from Press Club of Long Island (PCLI), New York Press Association (NYPA) and Fair Media Council (FMC).

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