Bodhi, a silly Shiba Inu who models menswear even though he’s a dog, earns his owners about $15,000 a month with his photo contracts, guest appearances, and sponsored posts on social media sites like Instagram and Tumblr.
“When we first dressed him up for fun [in 2013], he started posing for us, and doing like Blue Steel and Magnum,” says 29-year-old graphic designer David Fung, in reference to Zoolander, a comedy about male models. “We originally posted his photo to Facebook as a gag.”
The joke snowballed, as funny and adorable pictures of animals tend to do on the Internet, and Bodhi eventually became the ironic, iconic, fashion meme: Menswear Dog. Fung and his partner Yena Kim, a 27-year-old fashion designer who used to work for Ralph Lauren, launched a Menswear Dog Twitter handle and Instagram profile on January 28. In his first year, Bodhi amassed more than 3,800 followers on Twitter, and over 79,000 followers on Instagram.
Now, his Instagram has more than 148,000 followers; his Facebook has over 91,000 likes; and his Tumblr has more than 224,000 followers.
Besides being a social media celebrity, Bodhi has also graced the pages of fashion magazines, and become a model for high-end designers. Menswear Dog has been in GQ, Time, Nylon, Refinery 29, and even Esquire. Kim and Fung have also taken shots of Bodhi for the likes of Coach, American Apparel, Victorinox Swiss Army, Ted Baker, Brooks Brothers, Salvatore Ferragamo, ASOS, Hudson Shoes, Revlon, Todd Snyder, The Tie Bar, Polyvore, and Purina. Korean department store Comodo Square has even made Menswear Dog their unofficial mascot.
Bodhi is a consummate professional. Once he sees his wardrobe being taken out, he sits calmly, and allows himself to be dressed. They fluff the shirt shoulders out to a more human-like width, which is key, snap a few shots with a DSLR, and they’re done. It all takes about five minutes.
“There is a good reason pictures of dogs and cats are among the most viral images online, people love their pets!” says Fred Tilner, marketing director of 42nd Street Photo, a popular digital camera store in New York City, “for laughs or sighs or a roll of the eyes, nothing beats a pet in people’s clothes.”
Of course, taking on such a project takes quite a bit of faith and courage. As Kim says, it’s not like starting your average small business.
“When I left my job, everyone in my immediate office knew [about Menswear Dog], but I just told HR I was starting a company,” she said. “I didn’t want to be like, ‘I’m leaving you guys to dress up my dog.'”