The owner of a dog clothing company teamed up with the creators of Wallace and Gromit for a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Dennis Kelly says it was a real moment when Aardman, the animation company behind The Wrong Trousers, Chicken Run, and Shaun the Sheep, emailed him if he’d like to work with them.
Eight months later, UrbanPup announced the worldwide range of Wallace and Gromit dog clothes and went live. BelfastLive reports exclusively.
Speaking in from his camp Balloo, Bangor, Denis says he could easily have missed the golden opportunity.
He stated, “I’m just glad I didn’t miss this email. It was a first performance and I didn’t know it was from Aardman and it wasn’t until after a couple of messages back and forth that Aardman was mentioned with Wallace and Gromit.
“They saw us make dog soccer jerseys for the Northern Irish and Scottish football teams and asked how I would do a series for Wallace and Gromit.
“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I’m a fan of Wallace and Gromit so I knew who I was dealing with straight away and it was huge. I just had to think about it for a second just to catch my breath before saying yes.
“My stomach hit the ground because they are utterly massive, an award-winning brand that is huge in the US and across Europe and the UK and I thought this would be a big break for us if we made it.”
Denis says the business idea arose from a conversation with his daughter about their family dog, Buster.
He continued, “Buster was still a puppy and my daughter was afraid he would get cold walking, so she was given a small coat to keep him warm.
“I thought of the people in London and the US who were dressing their dogs in designer clothes at the time, and I had a feeling that the trend was likely to come to Northern Ireland as well.
“So we started making high quality leashes and collars, coats and harnesses and started selling. That was 14 years ago and we have never looked back. The demand is high and now we even make pajamas, onesies, terrycloth bathrobes and cradles for the car so that the dogs are safe when they are out and about.
“Working with Aardman has been an incredible experience and a huge boost, and now we’re ready for people to enjoy what we’ve created together under the Wallace brand and Gromit under the brand UrbanPup .
“We’re a big dog-loving company and a dog-loving family. Unfortunately, our dog Buster died two years ago at the age of 12. He was diagnosed with diabetes and in the end we had to let him go peacefully and it was one of the toughest things we had to face as a family.
“We’re going to bring another dog into our lives one day, but even two years later we’re still pretty raw about Buster and just not ready to have another dog.
“When the time is right, we’ll take the plunge, and in the meantime we think we owe so much success to Buster, including the recognition from Aardman. Without Buster, we probably wouldn’t have gotten into dog clothes.” and accessories business at all.
“The collaboration with the Aardman team has been great and we have looked into the design and production, stating that the quality has to be the same as always, practical, washable, fashionable, durable and easy to handle.
“They agreed and basically let us proceed with our end of the deal while sending us the pictures they wanted to use and we’re all very proud of the end result.”
The Wallace and Gromit range from UrbanPup went on sale today (Monday, October 4th).
Denis had been silent about the huge deal for the past eight months, but now he’s excited and relieved to be able to tell the world about the new deal.
He added, “Aardman wanted a range of Wallace and Gromit products that were taken seriously, that were fashionable and practical, so they really wanted to bring the two brands together to produce this range.
“We suggested we could make the famous yellow Southwestern coat and hat and while it was quite difficult to get it right we did it and now we have a PVC outer coat and a hat with ear flaps that do both are fully fleece lined and waterproof.
“Then we have Wallace’s sweater with shirt and tie in a chunky rope that is pulled over the dog’s head.
“We also made a rainproof, fleece-lined coat, a collar, a leash and a harness, as well as the collar bandana in the same print. We already had an UrbanPup print with umbrellas that Aardman liked and with the help of their design team in emails back and forth we added Gromit in the southwest and his bag.
“When you look back now, the whole experience was amazing. Being asked to join this industry giant was one of those times I had to pinch myself.
“We probably wouldn’t have approached them ourselves because they are such a huge company and I would expect emails from people like me to be lost in the huge numbers they need to get. The fact that they came to us and asked to work together was just amazing.
“It gives our brand a great deal of credibility and it feels like all of the work we’ve done over the years has now been recognized and that’s a very satisfying feeling.
“Our big markets are currently England, Scotland and Wales, then France, Italy, Spain and Scandinavia, we have a good market in Australia and a good market in the USA and Canada.
We are testing a new website:
“After working with Aardman, we believe the business will continue to expand and also help us put Northern Ireland on the map and that feels great too.”
Adam Vincent-Garland, Category Manager, Aardman, said, “Gromit remains one of the most famous pooches in the world, so it is only fitting that he finally has his own collection of high quality animal fashion.
“Urban Pup did an excellent job of creating the collection in time for the new fall-winter season. Each piece is characterized by a high level of attention to detail that fans of the show will surely appreciate. From London, Paris to the West Wallaby Street – anywhere in the world you walk your dogs; animal lovers can now do so in style with this fabulous and fun collection. ”
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