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August 2008
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Clothes Designer’s Work Goes to the Dogs

Jenni Ruffini is finding that money goes to the dogs.  The Decatur native lives in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where there is a market for her dog clothes.

A June graduate of the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, she seemingly has found a niche in the designing business. 

“Women spend hundreds of dollars on dog clothes around here,” she said. “A lot of high-end-class women are divorced and don’t have children. They treat their dog like royalty. I’ve seen dogs eating at the table in fancy restaurants in Miami.

“Women like to have their dogs wear the same sort of clothes worn by their mommy,” she added.

“Dog clothes are a fad. It’s a new culture, and it’s growing. In Florida, there’s a dog store in every other block. You know that dogs are nicer than people – they’re always there for you, and they want to make you happy.”

Ruffini has designed all kinds of dog outfits: jackets, shirts, caps, fashionable harnesses and Halloween clothes.
“The challenge is to have my clothes accepted in the animal specialty shops,” she said. “I’ve designed women’s clothes. Although I can do any kind of clothes, I believe dog fashion is the way to go.”

Ruffini has a dog of her own, a Jack Russell terrier named Bambina. “She’s my inspiration,” she said. Ruffini is working two jobs, as a seamstress at a dry cleaning store and as a seamstress in children’s clothes. She also has worked at a dog boutique.

“My ambition is to own a dog boutique and day care business,” she said.  Ruffini said she grew up in a family who excelled in many types of arts.

“My family members have encouraged me to go into the direction of being open-minded and creative with life choices,” she said. “I have been taught to be precise and time-efficient with my projects.”

She started sewing around the age of 7. She would make everything, including Barbie and doll clothes, even purses. “I soon found myself excelling in sewing, which opened my eyes to fashion and what it meant to me,” she said. “Fashion to me is wearing items that make you feel as if you are the fashion leader, no matter if you are trendsetting or not.”

A 2004 graduate of Eisenhower High School, Ruffini thinks her only weakness is being a perfectionist. “I will never let a stray thread or a broken stitch line be seen by anybody but me,” she said. “I find that because I have checked off my long list of experiences and knowledge needed to get me a career-based job, I have gained many steps forward.”

Mariella Adrian, one of Ruffini’s Fort Lauderdale teachers, calls her a “brainstormer.”

“Her concepts and ideas were always interesting,” Adrian said. “Her attention to details made her pieces distinctively hers. Her popcorn dress for a wine and food festival last year was a tremendous hit. Her final collection, incorporating the fashion capitals and the pet dog collaboration, was a remarkable idea.”

Read more of Ruffini’s story at The Herald & Review.

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Author, Instructor & Pattern Designer

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