Dog & Boy
Bold, timeless designs by Melbourne-based Sonya Michele on silk, wool and cotton inspired by ‘the beauty of everyday’. From a walk in the park, to the smell of rain, or changing of the seasons, each piece tells a story.
“Like Sonya Michele, I, too, have a scarf obsession. The designs have a soft, easy-to-wear palette and each sale supports the Cure Brain Cancer Foundation, a cause close to my heart.”Anna-Lisa Backlund Graphic designer & stylist
What were you doing before launching dog&boy?
It could not have been more different! I worked in the corporate world of banking and consulting; interesting work, great experiences, but just not satisfying. I had vowed to never own my own business – my parents owned small businesses – a dairy farm and newsagency – for most of my childhood and young adult life, and I saw the toll it took on them, financially, physically and emotionally. But call it serendipity – the planets aligning – dog&boy was born and here we are...
What inspired the name and set the wheels in motion?
The brand name came well after the concept. We worked through lots of different names, but none reflected our mission and purpose. Then, as with most things with dog&boy, serendipity took over one afternoon while I was driving with my young son. He was, as usual, downloading his day to me with enthusiasm, character and emotion. That’s when dog&boy came to me. Everyone knows a dog and boy – the adventure, the wonder, the curiosity, the stories. The imagination that only childhood gives, when every moment is an adventure waiting to happen.
Why scarves in particular?
Scarves have always been my thing. I’ve always worn them – all shapes, sizes, fabrics, colours – and always sought those that were a little different, special. I’ve always loved how, while so simple, they can lift your spirits and an outfit – even if it’s just jeans and a tee. At the time, I couldn’t find what I wanted in the market, so starting dog&boy was really solving my own frustration.
Dog&boy isn’t simply a creative endeavour for you – tell us what drives you.
It’s a story about love and scarves. I never wanted to just make scarves. Anyone can do that. Our purpose is to make women feel beautiful and special every day, with something simple but different; to make a connection through design and tell a story. The stories are the driver of dog&boy. Taking a simple moment from the everyday and creating a design around it. When I started dog&boy, I knew I wanted to align with a cause, but I just didn’t know what, but fate took over. In 2015, I lost my mum, Margot, to brain cancer. It happened just as dog&boy was taking off. Before the diagnosis, I was flying high on excitement and anticipation as we geared up for launch. It was exactly a month from diagnosis to the day she died, and it was shocking. So giving a portion of our sales to Cure Brain Cancer was obvious. But from a business perspective it was more than just donating money; as a brand, I was now in a position to raise awareness of a cause that relies on public support for its endeavours. Fashion may seem like a fickle way to be philanthropic, but the truth is, any involvement in charity is good involvement. If purchasing from a favourite brand is what motivates someone to get behind a cause, that’s brilliant – it’s better than not getting behind it at all.
Take us through your creative process.
Every dog&boy scarf is unique, but they all share a common thread. The designs are born from a simple moment or a single element that inspires the process of storytelling. It could be a quote, a texture, a song or a moment in time that has made me stop and appreciate. Personal photographs form the basis for many dog&boy designs and, from there, the creative process starts. We use different elements, such as vector graphics, patterns or textured images, to build the story. We then choose colours to complement the mood and purpose of each piece. If it’s an uplifting summer design that lends itself to beach days, we might use a bold base with pops of colour. For a broody winter piece, darker tones and muted shades work best. We then print using the most advanced digital print technology for superior quality and finish. The reactive dyes we use are excellent for working with natural fibres and are eco-friendly, too. Digital printing is also cleaner, safer and generally less wasteful and environmentally hazardous than analogue screenprinting methods.
How did your collaboration with Melbourne artist Chalie MacRae come about?
Mutual admiration! I always wanted to collaborate with an artist, to bring their artwork to life on textiles. We both followed each other via Instagram and I reached out. She was delighted to see her works transferred onto textiles. Both Chalie’s and my stories are so similar. We both come from a corporate background and are not formally trained in our fields, but simply are driven by a passion to create.
What manufacturing techniques do you use?
The spirit of our children’s future is a strong motivator for dog&boy, so ethical sourcing and processes are a priority. We only manufacture onto pure natural fibres – wool, silk, cotton and, eventually, cashmere and linen. These are mechanically, rather than chemically, milled. Our scarves are digitally printed onto fabric and our supplier uses the most advanced technology for a superior quality and finish.
Where are your scarves produced and by whom?
Like dog&boy, our supplier is a boutique business owned by Robin and his wife Becky in Hangzhou, China, where most premium-grade silk, wool, cotton and cashmere are milled and manufactured globally, including nearly 100% of Australian wool and cotton. We visit Robin regularly to assess working conditions, oversee the printing process and source new fabrics. Their factory is independently certified for ethical and Fairtrade practices. Robin has produced all our collections since our launch 2½ years ago and we have built a strong relationship of confidence, trust and respect. Because we manufacture at the source of fabric production and our supplier purchases directly from the mill, we minimise unnecessary production steps, thus reducing our impact on the environment and enabling us to offer a premium product at an affordable price.
What does the future hold for you and dog&boy?
Scarves will always be our core range – it’s why we started. But there is definitely the opportunity to extend beyond scarves, and it will be something that complements our current offering. Our export market is growing and now accounts for 10% of our sales to both customers directly and stockists/wholesalers. This year we plan to build on our current exports into China, then open up into Indonesia and the US. Taking over the world one scarf at a time!read less