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Nine to Fido: Chatting Pet Product Design with Cosima Pole of Creature Clothes

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Ever wondered what it’s like to have a job working with dogs? In our latest Nine to Fido, we chat to Cosima Pole, owner, founder and pet product designer for online ethical pet store Creature Clothes.

Describe a typical working day
There's no such thing for me. I live in London but our workshop is based in Suffolk. If I'm at the workshop I wake up and go for a run with my dog Stolli on the beach. It helps clears my head and it’s when I have my best ideas. I've been running with Stolli since she was a pup (I also had her mother, Vodka - the inspiration behind Creature Clothes) and she's an excellent jogging companion! I then head into our office come workshop, kicking off the day with a quick staff meeting to establish what we want to achieve that day. I try to keep out of the team’s way - they have a very slick operation in place and when I'm at the workshop I tend to be a bit disruptive. Inspiration will suddenly strike and I'll be running round like a tornado grabbing rolls of fabric and making samples and generally making a terrible mess. I walk Stolli at lunch time through the field of cows next to our office. 

Now that my kids are bigger (two & four) and the eldest is in nursery, they have to stay in London with their dad (they used to come to the office with me when they were little), so I tend to stay in the office late, maxing out on quiet work time. I am always desperate to get back to my family as soon as possible, as I miss them terribly when I'm away. I normally go to my parents' house anywhere between 8pm and midnight, grab some supper and either keep working from there or try and get an early night so I’m ready for a full day the next day.

Have you always been a pet product designer?
I’ve done all sorts. Before I started Creature Clothes I designed and hand made greeting cards from waste paper generated from my mother's lampshade factory. I also worked for Survival International for two weeks but made a terrible receptionist - I was only filling in and wasn't asked to stay. I wrapped lampshades for my mum for pocket money and I once worked as a translator at a water ski school for a summer.

What made you decide to become a pet product designer?
I left school an eco-warrier wanting to save the world. My mother's lampshade factory produced a lot of waste card in awesome colours, which I tried to get recycled but this was 18 years ago and recycling was pretty unheard of then. After failing at that I decided to make the waste paper into Christmas decorations - up-cycling as it's called these days. I took them to Liberty and they ordered 3,000 units. It was a steep learning curve!! I had wanted to be an environmentalist.

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What are the pros and cons of your job? 
I have a very free life - I don't have to keep to other people's hours or holiday allowances. I can work from wherever I am most of the time and I can fit my work around my children. However, all this day time flexibility often means working at night time, no social life, and when we're up against deadlines no nice 9 - 5 time limits of a regular job. I have to work all night sometimes. The feeling of being financially responsible for your team of employees is a heavy burden too but the pros and cons balance each other out well.

What do you find the most rewarding about your dog-job? 
I get to be with my dog all day! That aside the biggest reward has been the friends I have made along the way - I have met some seriously awesome and inspiring women who work in the dog industry and they are friends I will cherish forever. I also get to meet a really wide variety of interesting people and doggy people really are super nice! On a practical front, the complete outpouring of my creativity is pretty cool too. If I didn't get to do this as a job I think I would have gone round the bend a long time ago!

What has been your most memorable doggie moment? 
It would have to be Ben Fogle name checking us during his coverage of Crufts, tell the audience that his dog Inca was wearing one of our collars. I was walking out of the NEC after a typically full-on day at Crufts and my mobile went crazy with friends screaming - BEN FOGLE'S JUST MENTIONED CREATURE CLOTHES ON THE TV!!!" Even better he then went on to co-design a range with us - The Fogle & Pole Vintage Collection

What advice would you give to someone interested in doing the same job as you? 
It's a very multi-layered job. You have to keep a lot of balls in the air and become proficient at many things, many of which are alien to a creative person like myself - selling, accounting, cold calling - it's not just the designing and making of stuff (the fun bit). And get some sleep first.

To view Cosima’s pet products visit Creatureclothes.com. You can also keep up to date with all their news at Creature Clothes on Facebook and @StolliMudHound on Twitter.

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