Regardless of its exact origin, Sierra West went big with the Big Dog iconography. For a while the puppies were really big. During the brand’s heyday, which spanned the 90s and 00s, celebrities like Will Smith, Arnold Schwarzenegger and David Collier proudly sported large Big Dogs prints. The brand brought vibrant Californian surf energy with neon colors, large-scale prints and a must-have Big Dog à la St. Bernard, and was located right next to Stüssy and pre-Target Mossimo.
But the brand filed for bankruptcy in 1990, with a new property pivoting to an exit model. As shopping malls have fallen out of favor and business imperatives have changed, the bearers of Big Dogs have changed. The core demographic was now the middle-aged, “middle-Joe”, “salt of the earth” and “very“ Central American ”customer, said former Big Dogs brand manager Steve Dawson. Contour. By the end of the 90s, Big Dogs had fully reached the snark of brands like Big John and Coed Naked, contributing to the “D shirt” phenomenon, or douchebag shirt. To date, the Big Dogs online store offers a section dedicated to t-shirts, notably with “Big Attitude”.
The man behind Big Dogs’ sweeping change was Hayden Slater, co-founder of Pressed Juicery. Slater took over the co-ownership of Big Dogs and its parent company, The Walking Company Holdings, in May 2019. Leafing through old-school catalogs, he unearthed Big Dogs’ past: “There was a time when Big Dog started to get a little mean, ”he notes. “There was this personality that came out that was like, if you can’t hang out with the big dogs, come out of the porch.” But Slater also saw a road ahead. “I started to say, I can [Big Dogs] come from this loving, fun and inclusive place? Or has the brand gotten a bit oily or petty? Looking back, he knew the brand had already accomplished a lot of good with its historically inclusive size, up to 6X, making Big Dogs an outlier in the fashion world. “How the fuck is dope?” Celebrate bodies, celebrate shapes? Anyone could be a part of it, ”says Slater. “I [felt] like the dog [was] ready to evolve again.
The goal was simple: “The Big Dog [was to become] the anti-bully. Slater brought in music industry ghostwriter EB Sollis as the Big Dogs brand manager, to take on the challenge of changing his reputation. Until Big Dogs, Sollis hadn’t done anything close to creative direction, but he knew how to work with someone else’s voice.
Sollis, looking back on the mission, jokes, “I don’t know if the dogs get a facelift, but the first thing I did when I was there was redefine the mission statement. ” The new basic principle: Go Big, Do Good. The company hired another savvy brand, Elena Flores, in January 2020. Together, Flores and Sollis reminded the internet of Big Dogs’ legacy as an “epic sand brand,” repackaging it for today’s market as “anti -supreme”. For Sollis, that didn’t mean the brand couldn’t be cool either, but it did mean staying accessible to anyone who wanted the loyalty of a Big Dog – “a protector rather than a bully.”
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