When you think of the guests seated front row at fashion week, you might visualize A-listers dressed to the nines, recording the runways on their phones, barely looking up to take it all in.
The designer behind Melke has a different idea of a fashion show VIP — one far more present and observant of the sights in front of them. No, we’re not talking about a renowned magazine editor: It’s Tika the Iggy, the 12-year-old social media star with over 1 million followers on Instagram. Who happens to be a dog.
As Emma Gage prepared for Melke’s Fall 2023 debut, there was no question when it came to making a custom look for Tika’s front-row moment. Gage’s own pet — a French Bulldog named Cleopatra — frequents the studio with her, and was present for the design process of the new collection. Gage was inspired by the clothes she dresses Cleo in: “I get a lot of really cute knit sweaters for Cleo, and she loves them… I think it did help with settling on wanting to do a sweater [for Tika].”
Tika and her dad, Thomas Shapiro, are no strangers to the world of fashion: One click onto their shared social media pages, and you’ll see Tika in intricate, custom designs, often with a massive train of fabric (typically by Jade + Coral, a Brooklyn-based designer label for dogs). Still, how does a dog prepare for fashion week?
Before the chaos ensues, Tika likes to take things a bit slower than the average human attendee.
“I want to make sure she’s in tip-top shape, so there’s lots of cozy [and calm] time, because I want her to be really excited to be meeting lots of people,” says Shapiro. He emphasizes the importance of prioritizing Tika’s comfort as she navigates a very hectic schedule (especially for a dog). That also factors into some of the design choices for her looks, like picking the right materials and textiles.
“We have to be like, ‘Don’t put sequins around the neck, because that will itch’ or, ‘[use] velcro because the way she moves is delicate, because she’s a dog’ — a very fashionable model dog, but still, a dog,” says Shapiro.
Melke is one of three brands creating an outfit for Tika this season. For the Melke look, Gage went for a “James and the Giant Peach”-inspired concept: an ultra-comfy chunky black knit with a full train attached (true to Tika’s style), adorned with plush peaches all throughout. Assistant designer Persephone hand-knitted the entire garment.
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This collaboration has been a convincing argument for Melke to pursue more animal-targeted collections. “I grew up with an insane amount of animals… I am also fostering a bunny,” Gage says. Collections designed for dogs — and maybe even bunnies — is something consumers can “definitely” look forward to.
Shapiro shared that, on the day of the show, he and Tika would be taxi-ing from their preferred NYC hotel after having a “splurge”-worthy breakfast, packing all of her outfits for the day, just in case a quick-change is necessary. For the most part, Tika takes it easy, while Shapiro does the heavy-lifting — literally.
“It’s more busy for me, because I’m the one running around and she’s just in her bag chilling,” Shapiro says.
As for the coolest part of these experiences? Tika looks forward to interacting with her admirers, according to Shapiro: “When we go to these events and see how many people are there for Tika, that’s really cool. It kind of translates from online to real life.”
Shapiro recalls one of the most exciting encounters they’ve had during fashion week. The duo were walking down the street in the West Village, when none other than Brooke Shields appeared and asked, “Is that Tika?” Also, at a Christian Siriano show, Drew Barrymore held Tika while she gave an interview.
You could say Tika is rising to A-list status herself.
This season, Tika is also hosting a party for the Daily Front Row. (She’s the first dog to do so.) But once fashion week is over, Shapiro confirms she’ll go back to doing the one thing she may enjoy more than fashion: chilling out.
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