Feb. 04, 2020
By Jonathan Vatner
One of the most talked-about actors in the recent J.Lo movie Hustlers doesn’t have any lines. In fact, she’s not even human. Manhattan the Chihuahua, who plays Mr. Bruce (in a cross-dressing role), is owned by pet-fashion designer Ada Nieves, whose six Chihuahuas are all in showbiz. Manhattan herself has starred in The Con Is On with Uma Thurman, Someone Great with Gina Rodriguez, and All We Had with Katie Holmes.

“All my dogs have agents,” Nieves says.
Once Manhattan won the Hustlers gig, Nieves showed producers a few outfits she’d designed for her male dogs—faux fur bags, bedazzled collars, and sunglasses—and they loved them.

“It was a big compliment,” she says, “but on the other hand I’m thinking, ‘Hmm, I guess we really look like hustlers.’”

Nieves is crazy about Chihuahuas, but she also designs glam ensembles for cats, chickens, lizards, rabbits, even rats. (Her 2011 rat fashion show was featured on the Late Show with David Letterman.) Designing for each species requires understanding its unique body mechanics, as well as how the fur, feathers, or scales interact with various fabrics. Coat color matters too, in choosing fabric hues. As does body shape: “You can’t put a lot of ruffles on a chubby dog—it’s going to look like a seal.”

She coordinates an online group of 20,000 Chihuahua lovers worldwide and uses her platform to promote rescue efforts. Her annual New York Pet Fashion Show, which takes place at the Hotel Pennsylvania this year on Feb. 6, supports the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals each year. She is challenging designers for the show to incorporate technology, such as LEDs and wearable circuits, into the outfits.

“We’re going to have dogs, cats, bearded dragons, a guinea pig, a mini pig, a chicken, 80 animals on the runway,” she says. “It’s four hours of pure pet fashion.”