What started with home-made treats has quietly grown into a high-end dog accessories brand for creative, conscious customers. Although what founders Genesta Gunn and Taneale Hrymakowski are really selling is something without a price tag: that feeling of happiness you can only get from a dog
There is a little shipping container on Netil Market into which all the dogs go. They hop up the big step into the wood-clad space and stand and stare, usually with their front paws in the second ballet position that clearly says “I’m a good dog – where are the treats?”. Their humans get distracted by beautiful coats and collars on the shelves along the walls, while the dogs are greeted with a cuddle and a treat, and before soon they get gently wrapped in a plush garment to try on. Judging from the dogs’ expressions, they don’t always know what’s happening, but they do know it’s something good.
The professional dog cuddlers and dressers who run the container shop are Genesta Gunn and Taneale Hrymakowski, the founders of east London dog brand Fetch & Follow. Their five-year-old brand sells responsibly produced dog accessories, handmade treats and a few gifts for humans on the market near London Fields, as well as online. Fetch & Follow’s visual language is based simply on the things the creative duo would wear themselves, translated for their pooches: timeless waxed cotton coats with fleece lining, collars and leashes made from vegetable tanned Italian bridle leather, classic striped sweaters, plus collaborations with creative friends on dog beds, bowls and collar tags.
Apart from the self-selection of making “only items we would wear ourselves”, as Genesta says, Fetch & Follow puts just as much emphasis on sensible production. The leather goods are made in London by a craftsman; fabrics for the coats and jumpers are sourced from the UK, unless their durability (for example, the waterproof lining for the Sherpa fleece jumper) warrants importing it; the coats are waxed by a small manufacturer in Scotland, using traditional methods, and all packaging is recycled or biodegradable.
It’s the coats that are easily their most visible success. As we go for a stroll on a cold and damp December day on London Fields – “Fetch & Follow coat weather!” as Taneale quips out of her layers of Patagonia jacket and wool coat – we bump into her four-legged customers looking snug and very loved in their wares. The dogs don’t care about the weather and instead chase balls, sniff trees and jump into mud puddles, infecting their humans with their happiness.
Genesta and Taneale know how to translate that feeling of having a canine companion into products. “We wanted to make something that makes you smile in a way only a dog can,” says Genesta, while her Border terrier George puts at her feet his favourite tennis ball, a squishy vintage model that clearly counts among his greatest possessions. “It’s about buying something for someone so sweet and innocent, like when you go to Liberty and buy something for a baby. It makes you happy as well.”
That feeling can come through in details like the butter-soft Sherpa lining of the coats or the greeting cards Taneale illustrates, but it can also be something subliminal, be it a swing tag or a message included in an order. Genesta says: “Sometimes people who don’t have a dog come into the shop just to look at our stuff, because they know that feeling – and that makes us happy.”
Genesta and Taneale met through their dogs, which they used to walk together when their boyfriends, a fashion stylist and hair stylist respectively, worked together on fashion shoots on the weekends. Apart from nine-year old George, Genesta has a six-year-old miniature schnauzer called Frank, who is very protective of George when he has occasional seizures. Taneale rescued a whippet-Staffie cross called Lacy, who is seven years old and had been abandoned several times before arriving at her door: “The people from the charity came to my house with Lacy before Christmas and said ‘oh, she seems to like it here’ and just left her there.”
“On one of the walks, we bought these allegedly ‘natural’ treats, but all our dogs were sick from them,” says Genesta, who trained as a fashion designer before crossing over into buying and product development at retro-inspired homeware brand Cath Kidston. “We decided to make our own, inspired by our dogs.”
While Genesta baked the treats, Taneale, who studied graphic design and worked for a surf brand in her native Australia before moving to London, illustrated the adorable packaging, which also contained stories about the inspiration for each treats flavour: because terrier George thinks he is a human, there are gingerbread treats for him; schnauzer Frank would benefit from some breath freshener, so the girls made a minty variety for him, and their friend’s English bulldog Bruce has bad joints, so a turmeric-flavoured treat was made to soothe the aching bones. Along with illustrated cards, the girls set up on Netil Market. Fetch & Follow was born.
It didn’t take long for the team to realise their brand tugged on dog owners’ heart strings – they had found a way to translate “that” feeling. The time was right for some more substantial goods.
“It took us two years to make the coats fit the way we wanted,” says Genesta of the clever pieces featuring an adjustable breast plate and a Velcro tummy belt to accommodate different body shapes. “We now sell six sizes. Of course, there won’t be a size for every single dog. But we are making some with an even wider chest plate, to fit pugs and bulldogs, and also for longer dogs.”
The humble beginnings of homemade treats, the market container shop and the girls’ unpretentious, sweet nature hide altogether greater ambitions about producing, running and growing their business. Ethical production with as little waste as possible always on their minds, Genesta and Taneale also want to make an impact on their business and dog communities. “We want to create monthly networking events for other people who run small businesses, in particular women,” says Genesta. “The world isn’t set up for small businesses, so we need to help each other out. You grow with each other.”
Fetch & Follow also constantly donates to charity, be it parts of their profit from special-edition necklaces or a bunch of coats to rescue organisation All Dogs Matter. Last year, the brand also organised events like a “dog speed-dating” evening at Ace Hotel in Shoreditch, where prospective dog owners could meet vets and rescue charity representatives to talk about adoption. There will be more events this year, yet to be announced.
Only a few days into 2018, and Fetch & Follow has already launched a capsule collection for online store Lead The Walk. Genesta and Taneale are also plotting a series of pop-up shops all over London, to bring their “aww”-factor to new audiences (and to cuddle more dogs).
The spring 18 collection will get slightly more frivolous while building on Fetch & Follow’s signature look. “I don’t want to give too much away, because we get copied so much now, but we have a picture by Bruce Webber called Dogs For Peace in our shop, which is the inspiration,” says Genesta.
Even if spring isn’t Fetch & Follow coat weather, the little container on Netil Market will still be filled with happiness. And treats – always treats.