Dogs Aren’t Accesories: Why I’m Not Fooled By PR Stunts Promoting ‘Animal Rights’


Have you heard of fashion ecommerce company Lyst? Possibly not – up until yesterday, anyway. Yesterday the brand took to Twitter to reveal its latest wares, which were far from your generic overpriced shirts and skirts. Yesterday, Lyst started selling puppies.

And that’s when things got weird. The brand tweeted excitedly, announcing the release of its new Canine Collection, comprising real dogs:

Over on a dedicated URL, the ecommerce site revealed it was selling an exclusive selection of live dogs, from “Dachshunds to Great Danes, Pugs to Poodles,” all of which available, in true fashion style, “in a choice of six wearable colourways.”

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Naturally, a public backlash ensued. Twitter’s general consensus regarding the Canine Collection? That it was massive marketing misstep. A crash, even. “Disgusting,” some users commented; “disgraceful,” chimed others. Among the furore were many concerned people who alerted the RSPCA of the stunt. The animal welfare charity was understandably shocked and sent multiple tweets @Lyst to ask to speak to them. Weirdly, Lyst decided to banter through it.

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The Malcontent speculated that, while the RSPCA remained perturbed, Dogs Trust had been aware of the campaign all along. Lyst eventually mailed out a press release explaining the campaign was just a stunt aiming to raise awareness of impulse puppy purchases – but Dogs Trust vehemently denied any involvement with the fashion e-tailer. “Certain breeds of small dog are increasingly regarded as fashion accessories and bought without due consideration and thought. This trend and demand can fuel unscrupulous breeding and is why Dogs Trust has been working for the past three years on an investigative campaign to stop the puppy smuggling trade,” the charity wrote.

Among a scatter of tweets bearing the slogan ‘A dog is for life, not just for Instagram’, Lyst didn’t waste any opportunity to boast about the success of the Canine Collection campaign on Twitter. Surely this is humblebragging at its peak?

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‘Look at how great we are, getting all of this free publicity from all of these big-name news outlets! *Ahem* Obviously this is great for spreading our, er, charitable outlook!’

Lyst is quickly building a reputation for being the biggest joker in the fash pack, with a line of PR stunts under its belt that border on the ridiculous – last month saw Lyst take a DHL driver ‘hostage’ in response to increasing consumer demand for VetementsDHL-sloganned t-shirts. But, much like the guy who used to sit at the back of your Year 9 English class and laugh at every sorta-sexual reference in the set texts, sometimes constant hilarity makes you want to punch someone in the face. Lyst, right now, is that ‘someone’.

Lyst’s chief marketing officer, Christian Woolfenden, told WWD that his team were “delighted” by the response to the PR prank. He also noted that “the fashion industry is pretty conservative when it comes to marketing and there’s a lot of fun to be had in this space.” Which is all very well and good, but there is such a thing as a joke gone too far. Hasn’t Lyst’s marketing department ever considered that, in abusing puppies’ cute-factor to raise awareness of puppy farming, illegal importing and the like, they’re just continuing to promote stereotypes of toy dogs and other ‘cute’ breeds as fashion accessories?

It’s important here to bear in mind that Lyst sells real fur pieces on its site, which kind of puts a dampener on its animal-rights-activist guise. Let’s be frank: Lyst doesn’t have a leg to stand on here. It is very likely that Lyst has all these adorable pups’ best interests at heart, but that’s probably not the sole reason the brand’s campaigning against the treatment of dogs as disposable fashion pieces.

A dog is for life, not just for Instagram. Or misguided marketing campaigns.

Images via Grace Howard / Twitter

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