Earlier this month, I had a chance to go to the 'Portraits of Dogs" exhibition at the Wallace Collection, London. The whole concept of man's best friend struck close to home. It's true that dogs were the first domesticated pets, but any pet encounters often form special companionship and fall under the same context. That's how By Moumi started in the first place - the desire to take my loved ones everywhere with me - sometimes not in the flesh, but at least I get to carry them on the shirt I wear, the long fins I swim into the deep sea, an earring I wear even I go to sleep, and so on.
The whole exhibition was carefully curated. It started with the history of how the aristocrats wanted to show off their wealth by hiring painters to paint something other than human in the 18th Century; veering off into the movement of letting our beloved pets reflect our own characters and personalities in the 19th Century - led by artist Edwin Landseer who would later become Queen Victoria's favourite. This is very much something that I do with By Moumi, each of the cats - Moumi, Myogi, and Kikilala - each represents a facet of me and the brand's identity. Like Landseer's paintings, many collections of ours are satirised, though in a little subtler and more obscure fashion.
In our parallel universe, here's how the first By Moumi item came to be and lives on. My obsession with the egotistical kitty named Moumi. A joke that turned into a business with Moumi's faces adorning pretty much everything. With very rough and rather silly photoshop manipulation came this t-shirt that was supposed to be for just myself, then friends saw it on Instagram started asking if they could buy one. 18 months later the unit was complete when joined by troopers Myogi and Kikilala - with each collection spinning out gimmicks, twists, and a lot of time real life elements as we often add real non-human friends into the plot.
The third section of "Portraits of Dogs" reveals the deep bond between the artists and their dogs, how they shared love and empathy and more than anything, how dogs have become our friends, and families - not just pets. Artists like David Hockney and Lucian Freud treat this as a way to immortalise their loved ones in the artwork, preserving the moments and times spent with them through thick and thin.
Our need to keep the memories alive is no strange concept. For some, it runs deeper. Through our journeys, every animal encounter represents a part of us, may it be in the psyche, the subconscious, or even in the physical form. This applies to not just these three cats, or dogs. Photography is the simplest method to immortalise these beings, creating a brand and infusing the kitties into it is one of the million ways despite it being a little extreme at times, we all have our own ways. "Portraits of Dogs" is a centuries-long testament of this bond and significant relationship between humans and animals, how they go on to inspire us to be better, create things, and sometimes, even achieve greatness.