Woman-owned Dog Clothing Business “Le Chien Bleu” opens shop during the pandemic
By Alicia Venter
Tucked away in the boutique-style shops at 145 Front Street, Le Chien Bleu NY is serving loving dog owners throughout the Dumbo area and beyond with custom designs for their furry friends.
Beginning with a primarily online shopping experience, Lee’s has since expanded her business to offer shipping throughout the world. The store offers tops, jackets, dresses, hoodies, collars, dog beds, toys, and more for pets, each created with quality in mind to promote the quality of each dog’s life.
Le Chien Bleu, which translates to “The Blue Dog” in French, began as a hobby by owner JY Lee. Graduating from Parsons School of Design in 2007, the South Korean native was inspired by a coworker at her previous job as a textile worker to open an Etsy shop for dog clothes.
It wasn’t until she met client Anita Lee that the part-time passion that she ran out of her apartment grew into a full-time business. The owner of a Maltese and tiny poodle mix, Anita Lee’s dog, Benji, has hair instead of fur and needed the protection of clothes against the elements.
“I was online looking for clothes and I couldn’t find anything that was good quality, good fitting, and comfortable,” Anita Lee stated, continuing to share that she thought that independent designers or stylists could provide a service that more general animal supply stores were not. It is through this search that she was introduced to JY Lee, who she purchased custom-measured winter clothes from.
After receiving her purchase, Anita Lee, with her background in business, quickly recognized the growth potential due to the quality of products and offered her services as a partner.
“I ordered a couple of [items] from her and when I saw the product I said ‘oh my God, this girl is so talented. Then I said I had a crazy idea: here’s my resume. Do you want to work together?”
Their partnership combines the creativity needed for designing fashion-forward, stylish clothes as well as the entrepreneurial drive to expand as a business — and, more important than anything to Anita Lee, they are wonderful friends.
“We are better than any type of relationship I’ve ever had,” Anita Lee said with a strong laugh.
Starting with the design of her website and pop-up stores in Williamsburg and SoHo, the flagship store opened in 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, all the products for JY Lee’s clothes are made in the United States, with the fabrics sourced with “style and durability in mind,” according to their website.
There are five major categories of fabrics that are described in their entirety on their website: the organic cotton top, the premium cotton top, the classic top, the resort top, and the velvet top.
Each item has a list of features that fully explains to customers the benefits of each fabric. However, this is not the limit for products. Recently, Le Chien Bleu has created a cooling jacket to reduce the effects of New York City heat on dogs because they don’t produce sweat to naturally cool themselves.
The business’s mission statement, as found on their website, highlights the importance of the quality of their products: “Creating stylish, practical and top notch quality products in its target markets. Providing market trends so we are able to source the most wanted and exceptional fabrics for your fur babies.”
With each dog differing in dimensions of neck, back, and girth, it can be difficult to find the perfect size for one’s pet. As such, Lee does not simply sell clothes in different sizes to customers — she will tailor pieces to fit all different sizes of pets.
Among the customers that benefited from this custom, sizing is Alexandria Lau, 38, the owner of a French Bulldog. After following them on social media and “coveting over their products,” Lau soon purchased their products and was not disappointed.
“What I like about Le Chien Bleu is that they have awesome unique prints, that are simple and classy, but also trendy and they can be tailored to fit my dog, a French bulldog with unusual proportions,” she shared with The Brooklyn Downstar Star via Instagram. “Now that I’ve received my items, the quality and look is top-notch. Very posh and would be happy to shop there again.”
Though they have certainly grown well beyond JY Lee’s Etsy account, neither partners plan to slow their dreams for Le Chien Bleu. JY Lee, recognizing the numerous exceptional animal supplies brands that are solely online, wants to carry more than her own brand in her next store, located somewhere in the city.
As many of these brands that she deems are high-quality — such as being BPA-free — are owned by women, JY Lee has considered carrying only female-owned businesses. This promotion of the idea of women in business is something Anita Lee greatly supports, stating that “we believe in girl power.”
“I raised Benji like a baby,” Anita Lee said. “I believe we already have that clientele that are in the same boat as I am. We want to prolong [our dogs’] lives… to make their lives and human lives better.”
Le Chien Bleu is open Tuesday-Sunday from 12 p.m. – 6 p.m. For more information on Le Chien Bleu, visit their website at https://lechienbleuny.com or call their store at 908-274-1817.