Django was 10 weeks old when I skipped class at Columbia Business School, rented a neon green Ford Fiesta, and drove several hours north of the city to a Taco Bell parking lot. I cuddled Django close to my chest, grabbed a few carnitas tacos to go, and drove back to NYC with my new best buddy.
I took Django everywhere once he was fully vaccinated. When Django was pocket-sized, I’d slip him under my puffer coat and walk down into the subway. No one noticed the beady little eyes and tiny black nose poking out below my scarf. A few wonderful sales ladies at Cole Haan once took turns cradling and fawning over a smiling baby Django as I tried on winter boots. When Django was a few months older, we’d ride into Greenwich Village, grab a latte on Waverly Place, and practice ‘heeling’ down 6th Avenue as passersby smiled at Django with fondness.
Once Django grew bigger, I started transporting him in this hideous beach bag of mine – a bright green potato sack that I got for free at a work-sponsored golf event. The bag had zero structure, so Django would sink to the bottom unless I propped him up with two folded bath towels. Django would crane his neck to get a better view from the bag, sometimes putting pressure on his neck until I readjusted the bath towels.
I knew dog carrier bags existed. I had searched extensively for one that fit my style, taste and budget… but I never found anything I loved. Either the bag was affordable ($50 and under) but cheaply made, flimsy and unstylish… or it was extremely basic in style and function and grossly overpriced.
So I started designing my ideal dog carry bag.
I spent well over a month in early 2016 researching existing pet carriers, learning about materials, documenting key features, and reading every customer review ever posted online. What did dog owners like and dislike about their pet travel bag? What features were missing, and which ones would they improve? If you want to know passion, spend a few minutes reading negative customer reviews on Amazon…
I also poured over the most popular travel bags and handbags outside of the pet space. Why were certain travel totes and duffel bags more popular than others? What tote bags were the best sellers at Nordstom, Macy’s and Neiman Marcus, and why? What features and functions were most highly valued and aesthetically pleasing?
I began sketching my ideal pet carrier, quickly realized I had no idea how to draw, and hired a graphic artist to put my ideas on paper.
I put my dog carrier bag dream on hold for the remainder of 2016 and didn’t revisit the design until early 2017. The complexity of the carrier and cost of bringing it to life were extremely intimidating.
DJANGO officially launched in late 2016 with our Reversible Puffer, an Amazon best seller, and The Classic Dog Hoodie. These two items were my gateway into the world of product design, materials sourcing and manufacturing. For the first time I learned how to find, vet, and deal with reputable manufacturers around the globe. I learned what materials to use and why, and how to design a product that will last season after season - while I respect the industry, I’ve never been a fan of ‘fast fashion’.
I revisited my dog travel bag design in mid 2017. DJANGO started receiving some really great press by then, and sales had picked up nicely. I was finally comfortable bringing a more complex and costly product to market.
After weeks of contacting and interviewing manufacturers, I stumbled across an incredibly well regarded company in southeastern China. This supplier works with some of the largest and most respected bag brands in the US and Europe. They were also open to working with us, a small but growing pet company with a modest budget (relative to mature, high volume brand like Hershel and Michael Kors).
Throughout the second half of 2017, I fine-tuned the design with our new manufacturing partner.
We sampled various weights of canvas to determine which was most suitable for our design (we proceeded with 20 oz. canvas). We tested waxed and non-waxed cotton canvas prototypes. Waxing provides a layer of protection from rain, moisture and time. Staying true to DJANGO's goal of offering weather-resistant and lasting dog gear, we proceeded with waxed cotton canvas for the final design. That was an easy decision.
I also spent months testing various handle styles to maximize carrying comfort. Django and I would go for long early morning “walks” around Philadelphia – I’d put him in the latest bag prototype and carry him around on my bare shoulder to test the feel of the bag. We ultimately upgraded our leather twice to ensure max comfort against one’s shoulder and arm.
After a year of designing, testing, redesigning, and retesting… we are thrilled to introduce The DJANGO Pet Tote! DJANGO's newest design is beautifully constructed waxed canvas and leather dog carrier featuring a silky water-resistant lining, a tether to ensure your pup's safety, a machine washable sherpa footpad sleeve, and 4 zipper pockets to secure your essentials.
The pet tote is absolutely stunning, and we owe a lot of thanks to our amazing (and patient) manufacturing partner who worked with us over many months as we kept saying, “Nope, IT CAN BE BETTER!”.
Scroll down to see all the key features of The DJANGO Pet Tote or browse our three unique color variations.
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