Interview: Designer Mark Zunino

zunino

How do you spot a white dog inside a bridal showroom? Ask designer-to-the-stars Mark Zunino, whose Beverly Hills atelier is bursting with glittering wedding gowns—and two handsome white Boxers named Addison and Truman.

Zunino’s “security team” is on round-the-clock detail; since opening the studio last January, it’s where their dad spends most of his time.

“My clients love having the dogs at work,” says Zunino, who has designed for everyone from ballerina Misty Copeland to Angelina Jolie. “The energy they bring to the atelier influences the entire process — their happiness is infectious!”

So far, everyone’s gotten along …  famously. Addison and Truman play with the dogs of the A-list while Zunino creates celebrity couture. It’s all a pretty picture for a man who never fancied himself a pet parent.

“I initially had a ‘no dog in the house, no dog on the furniture, no dog on the bed, no dog hair anywhere’ kind of mentality. I dog-sat a friend’s dog while he was on vacation and that did it,” he says. “Shortly thereafter I got Truman, and the rest is history.”

Indeed it seems that Truman rules the roost; Zunino’s morning Starbucks runs include an egg sandwich for his best friend. Despite the indulgence, Zunino strives to provide a healthy lifestyle for his pups. That means a quality diet, regular veterinary checks and plenty of exercise.

For white Boxers like Truman and Addison, that also means lots of sunblock. Because of their pink skin, the dogs need extra protection — a reality made all the more apparent when Addison was diagnosed with melanoma in February.

After a minor surgery to remove the tumor, Addison made a quick recovery and is back to being his easygoing self — a perfect foil to his high-strung brother.

“Addison and Truman couldn’t be more opposite!” Zunino says. “Addison is calm, quiet and behaved, while Truman is non-stop energy, headstrong and massively talkative. He definitely takes after his dad!”

That never-ending energy has served Zunino well over his 25-year career in fashion. In addition to creating custom designs for celebrities like Sofia Vergara and Beyoncé, Zunino designs a bridal collection exclusively for Kleinfeld Bridal in New York, and a ready-to-wear line for QVC called “The Mark of Style.” He also makes haute couture for private clientele at his atelier, and has his eye on shapewear, handbags and fragrances next.

One of his most unusual requests: “Not too long ago we were asked to make a hand-beaded outfit for a bride’s dog, replicating her gown exactly,” he says. “The price tag was $13,000!”

That may seem excessive to some, but for a pet parent like Zunino, you can’t put a price on a furry friend’s love.

“I cannot even comprehend my life without [my dogs],” he says. “As crazy as life can be, there’s no bigger joy than to come home and be affectionately mauled. From that moment on, we’re inseparable. We spend all the time we can together—we just know we belong to each other.”

— published in fetch! magazine, the “Inside Out” issue