People We Love
Menswear Dog Unleashed: Styling the Internet’s Most Dapper Canine
By Liza Corsillo
Photos by Kyle Dorosz
By now, the story of Menswear Dog is something out of social media lore: It all started back in the early days—2013 to be exact—when Ralph Lauren designer Yena Kim and her graphic designer partner dressed up their dog on a rainy Friday out of boredom, and because it was really friggin’ cute. To their surprise the dog was into it—like way into it. “Rather than being a normal dog and scooting away, he kinda started laughing, his face just brightened up,” says Kim. “I think he knew how excited we were to see how good he looked, and he was giving us these amazing 45 degree angles.”
Kim posted that first set of photos to Facebook, unaware of how her life was about to change. “I took the first photos on my iPhone and people were like ‘What is this?! You need to make this a thing!’ So the next day we created a Tumblr page. Back then Tumblr menswear was exploding, it was a real community, and it was really easy to get a huge amount of reach depending on who was reblogging your content.” By the following Monday, menswear Tumblr had indeed lost its collective mind and GQ was posting about Bodhi, the impeccably dressed Shiba Inu, on their website. Since then, social media has continued to play an important role, helping the photogenic pup reach several hundreds of thousands of followers per platform.
For the most part, the story of Menswear Dog has centered around Bodhi, the smiley canine who has the style chops to teach young gentlemen how to dress for a summer wedding. And he’s got his talents for sure, but the true genius behind Menswear Dog’s enduring success is Kim, a woman who has been killing it as a dog influencer since before being any kind of influencer was even a thing.
Kim’s prowess as both a stylist and a tailor have made it so that clothes don’t just look good on her dog, they look fly as all get out. Of course, Kim readily admits she didn’t invent a new artform: “I can’t take credit for being the first person to dress up a dog,” she says. Artist William Wegman and his Weimaraners come to mind as predecessors and potentially as another clue into what makes dogs in human clothes so irresistible. But she definitely tapped into something people want to see, something far beyond just “cute.” When Bodhi isn’t wearing clothes, he’s adorable—but the moment he slips into a suit and tie? This good boy morphs into Menswear Dog, embodying the spirit of the clothes and encouraging us all to look our best.
After spending a day with Bodhi and Kim, we’ve come to believe it’s only natural that man’s (and woman’s) best friend participate in fashion and all the glamour that comes with it. We spoke with the world’s most stylish dog mom over coffee about taking career risks, the social media hustle, her own style inspirations, wise advice for other freelancers, and what she aspires to do next.
What did your friends and family think when you said you were leaving your job at Ralph Lauren to be a dog influencer?
I think my parents had sort of given up on telling me what to do at that point. I’m the youngest kid and my brother and sister are both very good kids. But I’ve always pretty much done what I wanted to do. As for everyone else in my life, I think about 50% were supportive and 50% were like “you’re crazy, you’re throwing your life away, what are you doing?” That wasn’t a crazy thing to think because I didn’t have a backup plan. But it put a fire under my ass to really hustle. There’s a new confidence gained when you’re like “Oh even if I don’t have a regular job, I can still make a living out of something”.
How did you know you were ready to make Menswear Dog your full time job?
I had used up all my holidays and my sick days and then it got to the point where I couldn’t tell them “I’m out sick” and then show up on some publication with my dog. It just didn’t work out. So my partner and I decided we would just go for it. We both quit our jobs in the same week. We didn’t have a back-up plan and no savings. The book deal was a source of income, but slowly we were starting to see that the idea of influencers was becoming a new form of marketing. People were spending less on banners and more on Instagram, they were spending less on TV ads and more on finding these influencers and getting smart about digital marketing. So it kinda happened naturally where brands that we were aligned with reached out for collaborations with rates and then we sort of bootstrapped our own agency. I have been approached by other dog influencers to be their agent. But quite frankly I don’t think I have the time.
What inspires you?
My mom and dad are crazy about traveling, and we moved to India in 1997. It was a completely different world. I feel like the visuals and the education I got from being there were just invaluable. It’s what really formed who I am. My high school was a boarding school located in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains I had like 45 minutes of internet access each day. You got a huge dose of beautiful nature and you also got complete silence at times. That was such an amazing learning experience for me. I think when I look at fashion and textiles I’m often harking back to what I’ve seen in India.
Has dressing your dog changed your personal style?
It has definitely affected the way I think about dressing up. But also, I have more time to think about what I’m into. It can be very easy to get roped into an aesthetic when you work for a brand or a specific company. But when you’re left to your own devices and you’re sightseeing, going into random stores, etc., you find what you really like. For me that’s what gives you the happy tickles, not necessarily what’s “style-guide approved.” I like to mix things in and I’m a huge fan of vintage. So that’s sort of my driving force.
When did you start making custom clothing for Bodhi?
I have always been really passionate about pattern making, draping, and sewing, because I went to fashion school. I think the first time I thought about it was when there was actually a need for it. There was an event request and they asked “what’s he wearing?” He wears size small menswear in those chest up photographs with clips at the back but he can’t be dragging a men’s shirt on the floor at this event. So I searched the internet for a dog form and lo and behold there’s a company that makes dog forms that look exactly like Bodhi. I ordered that immediately, and had to create a master pattern for sweaters and suits. That was hard to figure out, because we have arms on the side but dogs have arms on the front. Now whenever there’s a need for it I can just refer to the master patterns.
What’s the most elaborate thing you’ve made for him?
I made him a custom silk wool tuxedo, emulating Ryan Gosling’s epic navy blue shawl collar silk getup. I’m a huge fan of how Ryan Gosling dresses so it was definitely an accomplishment.
What have you learned about the business of social media along the way?
Social can be very fun, but it’s also very fast paced. I remember at one point the agency that I was with encouraged posting three times a day. Even with a human influencer that’s really really tough. Because if you want to keep your feed elevated, which all influencers should, churning out that kind of content (location scouting, shooting, editing and then posting) is no a small feat. Very slowly people are starting to recognize the value behind this work. But that was a struggle at first. When you’re working for yourself, you have to self motivate, and a lot of the time it’s hard. People are like “you do Instagram for a living that’s crazy. That’s your job?” It can be taken very lightly, but if you go into a very trackable digital marketing route it’s absolutely something that has a lot of potential. I truly believe it’s the marketing of the future. If you’re really thinking about this as a career trajectory then you have to think about yourself as a business.
What does Bodhi’s closet look like?
He has a menswear closet and a bespoke suitcase. I have this brown leather vintage Samsonite luggage where I put all of his tailored clothes that I’ve made for him. Just like any well-curated men’s closet you have the basics: a white shirt and a chambray shirt, some neutral sweaters, and then we can play around and have fun with maybe a vintage print Hawaiian shirt and pops of color. I like styling him with sunglasses and hats because he wears them so well. But I have the limitation of not being able to show him wearing pants, so I really like to emphasize his top half. We’ve gathered a closet full of menswear over the years but I live in Brooklyn in a two bedroom so I don’t have the space to store all of it. We’ve kept the best of the best.
What are his favorite things to wear and his least favorite?
I don’t think he would ever let me put pants on him so that’s off the table. He really likes shirts. I’m tailoring the Express pineapple shirt to be his exact size with his little arms sticking out. But in general, when he puts on clothes they act like a Thunder Vest and it really calms him down. So you’ll see him all calm and happy. But I try to avoid anything that would be too hot.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years? What does the future hold?
I try not to think about ten years from now because obviously a dog’s life span is limited. But I feel like I’ve accomplished my first goal, which is to make Bodhi the most stylish dog in the world. So I’m really happy about that, and at the end of the day each of these photoshoots have a bevy of memories tied to them. When I look at my feed it’s like looking at a photo album of the best moments of my life. In terms of scaling the business, we’re currently working on an e-commerce section to the website. We’ll curate all the best dog products from around the world into a one stop destination for people to find and shop elevated items for their dogs.
Do you have advice for the next generation of freelancers?
I think that any advice you’re given is going to just sound like a saying on a postcard until something happens to you that have to overcome. For me a lot of the valuable things I learned—like how to worry about paying taxes, or how to organize my finances—happened because I didn’t do something and had to pay for it later. There’s a lot of advice out there, but if you’re in social I would say: You should never forgo quality for quantity. That was a challenge I had because platforms would raise you in the algorithm if you had frequency back in the day, but now they’re really opting for high quality content. Also, a lot of social feeds are really elevated and so beautiful, but they look very cookie-cutter. If it’s not special there really isn’t a reason for people to get interested. Even within the dog world, if I had to give advice it would be: Find what’s unique about your pet. Maybe it does a weird thing every morning maybe it has a huge tongue. I think feel-good content is good. Go for that, rather than look at others and try to be like them.