Kathy Ireland extending her passion for fashion to pets

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Kathy Ireland's Worldwide brand is 28th most powerful brand in the nation, according to Forbes Magazine, topping $2 billion in licensed products in 2013. When it comes to home decor, the one-time super model is a superstar and more than a tad successful. Announced at the Global Pet Expo in Orlando, FL, on March 13, Ireland has now partnered with a pet products company called Worldwise (cq).

At Worldwise, Ireland's pet decor collection is called Loved Ones. This is no coincidence, she says.

"Of course, pets are members of the family. They are loved ones," she says.

Business can be "dog eat dog," but the pet business is a bit different, Ireland says.

"The kindness of everyone we met was surprising. This industry has incredible, warm and wonderful people. We've been welcomed in a special way."

In the 1980s, Ireland was a model, arguably most remembered today by sport fans, or at least readers of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issues. She appeared as cover girl on the special edition three times. Also an actress, Ireland has appeared in films and television. Her movies include "Alien from L.A." (1988), "Unnecessary Roughness" (1991) and "Loaded Weapon 1" (1993). In 1994, she landed a recurring role on the popular prime time soap opera "Melrose Place." In 2009, Ireland was a contestant on "Dancing With the Stars."

Today, Ireland is best known as a keen businesswoman and founder of Worldwide, which she began 21 years ago. Her first product wasn't a swimsuit, but a pair of socks. The company is involved in fashion, home, entertaining, outdoor and wedding products.

According to printed reports, Ireland's pet products sales career began when she was about 10 years old and sold hand-painted pet rocks. She's come a long way. Ireland's new line of pet products is near and dear to her heart, as she puts it.

Of course, Ireland is a pet lover.

Her dogs Gracie and Delilah are both Maltese. Sparky, Lucky, Coco and Toto are all mixed-breed pooches. Gracie and Delilah were left to Ireland and her family when her dear friend, actress Elizabeth Taylor, passed away.

"It was a blessing to be mentored by this amazing women," Ireland says. "She taught me about business, about design and philanthropy. Back in the 1980s, when the HIV-AIDS epidemic was little understood, she became the fearful Joan of Arc of AIDS."

Ireland adds, "People may not know how much she loved animals. She and Richard (Burton) would go to Africa, and she would drive people crazy by getting out of the jeep while on safari. She would sit and just wait for the lions to come by, and she's watch them." While Ireland concedes that sitting in the middle of the savannah waiting for lions may not be advisable, Taylor was not afraid.

"Animals of all kinds are very perceptive; they pick up on people's cues and they can sense if people are afraid, aggressive or loving -- which is exactly what Elizabeth was. They know when a person comes from a place of love."

Ireland's new Loved Ones collection features several pet beds she designed. The Cuddle Cube Pet Bed allows a pet to sink into their cushy bed without the bed losing structure. The Quilted Bed with Lounge Mat has a quilted bed base and reversible mat inside, even enabling the owner to match the bed style with the sleeping pattern of the pet. The Pillow Hideout Bed has a hood that allows the pet to snuggle inside or hide a favorite toy.

"For all of our products we deliver on value, quality and safety, " Ireland says. "And it's important that the products can be used in real life, not be destroyed by the pets or children who spill something on them. They're all washable." She knows the importance of this factor as a mother of three (ages 11 to 19).

"Our products must be child-friendly, including our pet products. Kids are my favorite people," says Ireland. "Precious beyond words and they teach us so much. We want kids to be involved in most of our designs. Our own children and the children of our team members help us in the design process and are members of our focus groups."

Likewise, the new Loved Ones products have been pet-tested. The collection includes leashes, collars and other pet accessories. All are available wherever pet products are sold.

With over 15,000 products to her credit, there may be nowhere left on the planet for Ireland to excel.

"No, you won't see me in space," she says. Ireland also has six books to her credit, and is now toying with the idea of developing books and other projects around Gracie and Delilah.

(Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Although he can't answer all of them individually, he'll answer those of general interest in his column Send e-mail to PETWORLD(at)STEVE DALE.TV. Include your name, city and state. Steve's website is http://www.stevedalepetworld.com; he also hosts the nationally syndicated "Steve Dale's Pet World" and "The Pet Minute." He's also a contributing editor to USA Weekend.)

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