I used to have this favorite western belt when I was a kid. It had decorative carving in the leather, was two-toned and had the coolest pewter buckle with a cowboy riding a bronco. I loved that thing. So when I came across Heritage Brand‘s western style dog collars, and saw how the company had taken the look to a whole other level, I was intrigued.
I talked to co-owner/designer Jessica Crouch on the phone the other day and asked what any fashion lover worth her salt wants to know: how are you inspired to make these beautiful dog collars? Here’s what I found out.
Heritage Brand is a family business. Jessica’s husband, Jim, is her partner in business, as well as life. Jessica handles the designing, and Jim does the sales and marketing. It’s a good fit. They’re high school sweethearts who left other careers to work in their passion. They are also both also rodeo riders. Jessica barrel races and has placed in many shows. Jim is a professional team roper, also placing in shows. So it’s no surprise the inspiration for the company came from the rodeo.
Jessica loved how irreverent rodeo fashion was, so ornate and theatrical; there were no rules. In 2002, she’d just recently started Heritage Brand with her mother, also a leather artist. They were building horse tack at that time. One day, she got this crazy idea to pair a silver concho, a staple of Western style gear, together with some crystals, which no one had yet done in the tack industry. Little did she know, she’d just started a trend. “It was very provocative at that time because rodeo horse tack had been pretty traditional until that point, ” Crouch explains. “There was a lot of scuttle about it when we first started making stuff because no one had seen anything like it.”
We love trailblazers! Heritage Brand is doing some of the most cutting edged Western-inspired design out there, so much so, that companies are already copying their style. Creatively using semi-precious stones, Swarovski crystals, conchos and studs as embellishments, the collars are made from the finest Argentinian hides which are sturdy and wear well. She achieves special effects with acid washing or embossing the leather to give it the look of alligator, all to great effect as you can see from the pictures of some of their collars here.
As the business grew, Jessica needed more help and Jim made the move from a successful construction career to join her. That’s love, ladies! Around this time, Jessica noticed that many of the rodeo folks also had dogs, and were just as interested in dressing them up as they were themselves and their horses. And with that, the dog collar part of their business began. Jessica described that first collar as, “very plain compared to the things you see now. It had some hair on hide and just a few crystals on it, which was kind of stepping out there at that time.” Fast forward to the present. What was her most outrageous design? “We recently did a piece for a customer that lives in Italy, and it is a show collar for a wolf hound,” she says. Jessica goes on to describe, “It was probably 5″ wide and had hand-carved, hand-scalloped, hand-boxstitched, hand rim-set crystals, it was like a 6 or $700 collar, and more like a piece of art.” Amazing!
Crouch says she and her team come out with a new style every year and some of that inspiration does come from the fashion world. Their business, which still very much includes horse tack, as well as handbags and other accessories, continues to grow. And with their success, she and Jim believe in giving back, devoting 6% of their revenue to charity. They have a special softness for children and families in need, due to illness or a loss of some kind, and are presently custom building a complete horse tack set and halter at cost for a woman who lost her husband in Afghanistan. It will reflect the stars and stripes in gold to represent the Wounded Warrior’s Project, which she became an ambassador for after his death. And it will have his name inscribed, in remembrance.
Heritage Brand are becoming celebrities in their own right for their unusual and, now popular, designs. They’ve been written about in every horse and rodeo magazine, and their dog collars and tack are featured on the new A&E show, “Rodeo Girls.”
This could be that great special gift for either your dog or the dog of someone close. You can buy one of the limited edition styles of Heritage Brand collars here. After all, Valentine’s Day is coming up. 🙂
Until next time…
(Disclosure: If you choose to purchase any of the suggested items in this post, I will receive a small compensation from the company, which goes towards keeping Bark and Swagger up and running and towards the monthly donations I make to animal rights and rescue organizations. Thank you for helping out!)