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Chicago dog collar designer gets a boost

May 17, 2012|By Leonor Vivanco, RedEye

Celebrities could really be just like us.

Stars at the MTV Movie Awards on June 3 will get a chic collar for their canines stashed in the swag bags.

Chicagoans can get the same collars for their pooches that Michelle Cleek O'Hollaren, 33, of Bucktown, handmade for $29.99. Each collar features designer fabrics, is adorned with a faux flower and has a metal buckle with her logo laser-engraved on it.

"It's a conversation piece," said O'Hollaren, an elementary school teacher who founded Sophisticated Pup in 2006 shortly after she got her pug Penny. She sells pet products online, at Chicago dog boutiques and street fests.

It's through the Artisan Group that she made the connection to donate 100 collars for the goodie bags available at the GBK Celebrity Gift Lounge at the awards show. At the lounge, a dog mannequin wearing the collar, matching leash and a fashionable tutu dress will be on display.

"It's exciting to be able to get my products out and potentially have a lot of celebrity dogs wearing my dog collars. Hopefully, it'll lead to more celebrity clients," she said. She counts Tori Spelling and Bethenny Frankel among her clients.

She spent six hours a day for three days of her spring break, putting the right touch on each collar. At the end of April, she shipped them off to California. She hopes to one day flip through Us Weekly and see one celebrity-owned pup wearing the collar.

"It's kind of neat to know I'm a smaller designer in Chicago and potentially 100 celebrities will have my products and their dogs will wear them," she said.

Her business started after people saw Penny strut around town in her stylish dresses and told O'Hollaren she should sell the clothes. Her product line is molded after children's clothes and what's in that season.

"I find that people have a strong reaction to their animals. People really, really like them," she said. She is no different and treats her dog as if she were her child.

"I want her to be happy. If she's in a cute dress in my mind, she's happy," she said.

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