For design conscious pet owners, finding pet accessories that fit a clean, minimal home aesthetic is easier said than done. With so many cat scratchers and pet bags made out of weaker and un-recyclable materials, Nic and Helena, the duo behind pet accessory brand Dote decided to create a collection that would offer pet owners an environmentally friendly alternative. Inspired by their pets Sika and Kira, the debut collection features four stylish pieces made with durable, recyclable materials – a Mouldable Blanket, a Grooming Set, Dote Tote Pet Carrier and a Modular Wall Climber. In this feature, we interviewed Nic and Helena to share their story of Dote.
Tell us about yourself. What’s your design background and philosophy?
We both have a similar background, studying design and afterward working for various designers and design studios, mainly designing products for the home. One of the main reasons for starting our own business is that we wanted to be able to have control over the whole process ensuring that all parts of the process are handled consciously for the benefit of the environment as well as everyone involved. Having a Scandinavian origin – both have Swedish parents, although Nic grew up in London – we are drawn towards highly functional yet simple and minimal solutions.
How did you get into designing pet products?
Having two indoor cats (Sika & Kira) living with us in London, we quickly realized it was nearly impossible to find products that fulfill both their needs as well as our own whilst remaining easy on the eyes. Most of the products we found were made from the same few materials, which age quickly and not particularly elegantly, as a result of the cat’s natural and necessary behavior to claw, scratch and bite. Once the cats had thoroughly decimated the object, the only thing left was to toss it in the landfill, as the laminated materials couldn’t be separated and plastics weren’t the type to be recycled.
We began making bespoke pieces integrated with our space and our existing furniture but this became increasingly time consuming – time that most people don’t have. You could say our focus is to turn the pet’s needs into objects that suit the urban pet owner’s contemporary lifestyle and living environment.
Dote is an old-fashioned english verb that means “to be extremely and uncritically fond of” (synonyms: adore, love dearly, be devoted to, idolize, treasure, cherish, lavish affection on, worship, think very highly of, appreciate greatly, admire, hold dear, prize; indulge, spoil, pamper). Our products are designed for people who dote on their pets.
You use recycled felt for most of the products in the collection. Can you tell us about your choice of material?
The felt material was actually chosen by Sika and Kira probably due to its heat insulating qualities. We had samples scattered in the material section of our studio and the cats constantly snuck in and were found sleeping on only the tiny felt pieces. Since the felt is both durable and recycled, it fit our ethos perfectly. Once we got larger pieces of the material, we realized that Sika and Kira also loved to use the material to scratch and destress on, and more surprisingly the felt could take it.
A lot of high end pet products use materials like leather and wool. We think it’s wrong to use animal-based materials for animal products, as the production of the materials most of the time includes animal suffering. With the amounts of excess material waste humans create, we thought it best to reuse these materials instead of producing new ones.
What’s the story behind the Modular Wall Climbers?
We had the idea to make a minimal solution to replace the existing “cat trees” that are almost always made from sisal hot glued to a cardboard tube, making it impossible to up-cycle or recycle. The felt structure makes it possible for the cats to climb, scratch and have a comfy nap – all in one product. The modules also give you freedom to pick your own layout and adapt it after your cat’s and home’s specific needs. The best part is, if you have a very active cat, you can easily exchange the felt without throwing the whole product out.
Tell us about the Dote Tote.
The Dote Tote is designed to make trips safe and comfortable for both owner and the pet, whatever the travel plan looks like. Due to its flexible yet shock-resistant felt shell, it can easily change size and shape to simply protect the animal from rain, to be safely transported on a bike or in a car, and even shrink temporarily to fit most airline in-cabin restrictions. The bag can also be used as a comfortable travel bed by taking off the shoulder straps and unzipping the recycled mesh fabric on one or both sides of the bag.
What challenges did you encounter in developing Dote products?
By providing relevant products with environmentally conscious production and up to date design solutions, the aspiration is to equally satisfy the pets and their owners while encouraging responsible living. Important factors include optimizing distribution by designing lightweight/flatpack products and minimizing packaging materials. Also, an underlying theme throughout the collection is modularity, making it possible to exchange worn parts or upgrade the products, as it will always be more sustainable to give a product a long life. Since we are still in the product development process, there are new challenges every day. It’s definitely keeping things interesting and no day ever looks the same.
What are your plans for Dote in the future?
We are currently focusing on getting the prototypes shown during London Design Festival on the market. We definitely have plans to add more items to the collection – we actually already have a few lined up – but since we are a start-up company, our first priority is to make sure the first products are up to standard and of high quality.
With their launch coming later this year, we can’t wait for their collection to officially be available in the market. You can find out more information on their website here.
What do you think of these minimal accessories? Tell us in the comments below. For more articles on pets, head on over to our collection of pet stories. We’re also on Facebook and Instagram, so make sure to follow us to stay updated with the latest design news.