Coco Chanel, the Chihuahua, and her human, Adrian Stephen Cabuhat, have kindly made time in their busy schedule for an interview – To give an insider look into being a fashion designer for dogs, as well as competing in (and winning) dog pageants and cosplay competitions. The pair often compete in tandem, with Adrian designing a matching outfit for himself! We started with questions for Adrian, before moving on to get personal with the pup known as Coco Chanel.
The pair call the Philipines their home but compete internationally. In 2018, their first international competition earned them a mention in The New York Times. Competing in Fifth Annual International Cotillion, Coco proudly wore one of Adrian’s intricate Filipino-inspired designs down a runway in New York City.
Being a pet fashion lover is a different thing. You get to show your creativity and have the bonding time with others who share the same interests as you.Adrian Cabuhat, The New York Times, August 2018
Celebrity Pets: Adrian, please start us with the story of you getting into dog fashion and dog fashion shows.
Adrian: I started competing as a cat fashionista in 2015 before competing as a dog fashionista. Being one of the few competitive catshionistas – We were encouraged to adopt a dog to further show our creativity – as cat fashion shows are very limited compared to dog fashion events which are much more competitive in the Philippines.
In 2016, I was given a tiny chihuahua I named Coco Chanel as the original owner thought amongst the puppies, she would not last as she was too small, and no one wanted to adopt her as she was not ideal for breeding because of her small size. I named her Coco Chanel as I envisioned her to be known worldwide as someone who will break the stereotypes in pet fashion as the world’s most expensive brand of bag is Chanel.
Like with adoptions, black dogs in pet fashion shows are not ideal for some, but it challenged me to have a winning consecutive championship streak during her first few months of competing, which she achieved from as early as 3 months old and still counting!Adrian Stephen Cabuhat
CP: Do you have any advice for people looking to design dog clothing or wanting to compete in dog shows?
Adrian: Purpose is one thing you should ask yourself. It is not always the spotlight, the attention, the prestige of winning – As owning a pet fashionista takes more time and responsibility than owning an ordinary pet. You have to be committed and not rely on your fashion designer or seamstress as they can only provide the outfits. But the ideas, the time that you will commit to attending pet events, and also the unique show you’ll put on, is up to you! As you want to win and shine on that catwalk you always need a winning mindset – Not only to win for your own pet (as it is often a tandem competition) but also to win for the community and inspire others and contribute to the betterment of the whole animal welfare community where you belong.
CP: Can you share the process of creating a dog outfit?
Adrian: First, you have to conceptualize – Design, look, and color of the outfit. For me, the first 10 concepts in mind will not be the choice. Instead, pick the 11th, meaning it should be unique and not the ideas that your contenders will be showcasing. Make sure and is relevant to the theme of the event you are joining. Next, and one of the most important parts of making a pet outfit is to make sure to choose materials that are lightweight and comfortable for your pet. Then, you have to take proper measurements of your furbaby and it is a must that it fits well and your pet is happy wearing it once done. Third, you have to choose embellishments that will make your creation stand out.
CP: What do you enjoy about designing doggy clothing and also competing?
Adrian: For me, it is always the audience and those who love Coco Chanel and my other furshionistas that makes me have that winning mindset. I live for them as I always want to WOW and excite them on our next creation, theme, and concept – As i challenge myself to win the Grand Prize every time we compete and perform onstage. I always make sure to make them wow and appreciate not only my efforts but also those who collaborate with me as we compete and, of course, to show my rapport with my pets. There is always a new story to tell every time we go and attend pet events to compete for the pet fashion show, whether the venue has a stage, red carpet, or even how big and crowded or small and intimate the venue is.
@adrian_stephen Best Pet Designer 2023 and 1st Runner Up Overall for a National Level Philippine Festivals Themed Pet Fashion Show #foryou #foryoupage #pet #dog #dogsoftiktok #petfashion #petfashionshow #bacolod #masskarafestival #petsoftiktok #winner #petdesigner #chichuahuasoftiktok #chihuahuas #dogfashion #philippinefestivals #cocochanel #4u #4upage #teacupdogs ♬ original sound – Adrian Stephen
CP: How do you and Coco prepare for a competition or show? (both mentally and physically)
Adrian: As a busy fur parent who is also committed to the corporate world, I made sure that my after-work hours are my playtime with my cats and dogs. And if there is a competition over the weekend, weekdays after-office are my creation time as well for my pet’s outfits. So you want to ask if I talk to them? Yes, in a very cute way as it surprised me that Coco is very excited every time it’s fitting time – Which is also an adapted attitude of all of my pets. They are used to the fittings, runway rehearsals in my room and even the dress rehearsals at home. They respond as if they know what is happening and what I tell them.
CP: Can you share some favorite moments or achievements of yours and Cocos?
Adrian: Of course! My most memorable and humbling experience is being the first Southeast Asian to compete and win the international pet fashion shows while being supported by Filipinos and the brand we love and support – Dunsk Kuhner in 2 consecutive years in the New York Pet Fashion Show 2019 and 2020 and joining the G Girl Productions New York Event in 2018.
@adrian_stephen G Girl Philippines in New York #foryou #ggirl #chihuahua #dog #dog #pets #pet #trending #dogsoftiktok #petfashion #petfashionshow #newyorkcity #nyc ♬ original sound – Adrian Stephen
CP: What makes Coco special to you? Does she have any funny quirks?
Adrian: Coco Chanel is being tagged as #batteryoperated haha. She is mistaken as toy dog not only because of her small size but also because she is not the usual aggressive, barking chihuahua that many expect. (She only barks every time there is a good looking guy or girl that she wants to get the attention of) She loves to be pet by anyone and can be carried by any model on the runway even though she just met the person . She also has this cute style that she poses every time I put her inside a frame as if she is a living portrait. During photoshoots, it is always expected that she will make it hard for the photos to be taken as she does her own thing during the actual shoot. But the challenge is because after the shoot, anyone will have a hard time choosing the best shot because all of them are the best shots!
CP: Can you share the story behind this Instagram post?
Adrian: It is the winning National Costume of the very first Miss Universe Canine 2022. My creation is inspired by one of our iconic means of transportation in the Philippines – The tricycle. A tricycle is a 3-wheeled motorized vehicle consisting of a motorcycle attached to a passenger cab that 3-4 people plus the driver can ride.
CP: Can you talk about fashion shows that include both humans and dogs, such as the Pride: The Don Cristobal Fashion Show that took place in January 2023?
It is the showcase of my human and pet twinning creations and collection. It is 1950’s inspired and worn by my pet and human models from kids, teens, and adults with their beloved fashionista cats and dogs.
That is the time I showcased my collections without me physically present at the fashion show as I was in Thailand at that time as a National Director for an International Kids and Teen Pageant wherein I also made the Philippines win two crowns for the girls category- International Kids of the Year 2022 and Pre Teen Asia Pacific Princess 2022. I was very happy as for the finale of my fashion show a very good friend and also a famous celebrity carried my award-winning chihuahua Coco Chanel on the Runway – Mr. Lance Raymundo of Viva Artists and a brother of a famous celebrity singer Mr. Ranny Raymundo.
CP: Can you tell us what “Shopawhowlique” is all about?
Adrian: Shopawhowlique is the first pet jewelry brand of the Philippines that was founded the year we first competed in the international pet fashion show wherein the jewelry was also categorized – G Girl Productions 5th Annual Cotillon in the year 2018 that happened in a New York Hotel. The first set of crowns and jewelry were made of copper wires, rice pearls, Swarovski stones, and other gems. It was very iconic and memorable as the crown was sold to a celebrity pet owner in NYC and we donated the money to a pet fashionista and pet designer of our country Jorge Denzell, who is recuperating in the hospital that year.
CP: Now onto the little legend herself… Coco Chanel! Coco, please tell us how did you and your human meet?
Coco: I was unwanted as I was too small and tagged as not good for breeding. I am very thankful that my furdad Adrian has chosen me to be his dog that will live together with his cats at his condo unit. He was also discouraged that a black dog is not good for pet fashion shows but we broke the stereotypes and have been winning since the first day I competed for a pet fashion show.
CP: Do you have a special talent or do any tricks?
Coco: I do well in poses during photoshoots and also my runway prowess in each of the pet fashion shows that we join is something incomparable and remarkable as I know where and how to project especially if there’s a camera.
CP: So, what’s the naughtiest thing you’ve done? (We promise not to tell your dad)
Coco: I have this charisma to attract good looking men and also cute girls. I want to be pet by them and if I don’t call their attention when I pose, I even call out to them and bark at them nicely.
CP: As a jetsetting pup, what are a few favorite places you’ve been?
Coco: Yes! Travel is my life and I fell in love with New York when I first visited in 2018. In the Philippines, I love every single province that I visited, namely Baguio the Summer Capital of the Philippines. Not only did I sweep grand winner awards there but gained a lot of valued friends who love and own fashionable cats and dogs there.
CP: What are a few of your favorite high fashion outfits and costumes and why?
Coco: I love my iconique copper wire gowns created by my furdad that made it to New York Pet Fashion Show.
CP: When you’re not competing or walking the catwalk, do you still like to dress up? Or do you dress casual?
Coco: I’m beautiful naked and playing with cats and dogs at home. Because we dogs are beautiful with or without an outfit. My dad is an advocate of not humanizing pets at home (especially in the Philippines where we have a tropical type of weather)
CP: Imagine you’re a late-night talk show host of Let’s Chat with Coco, who would be your top celebrity guests and why?
Coco: First will be our current Miss Universe Philippines 2023 Michelle Dee who is the most awarded queen for the recent batch of the Miss Universe competition. I’d also like to interview Jennifer Lopez as she starred in the movie Hustlers where she had a nice chihuahua in it.
CP: Have any upcoming plans you can share?
Adrian: Watch out for December 2023 as we have a big announcement to make and also we will win not only grand winner awards but also hearts or more people for 2024 and beyond.
CP: Are there any charities or non-profit organizations you’d like to give a shoutout to?
Adrian: We recently supported the Philippine Animal Welfare Society – PAWS Scaredy Cats and Dogs event, wherein Coco Chanel won as the overall grand winner out of 165 contenders.