Linda Rodin is a native New Yorker, entrepreneur, and iconic fashion industry veteran who has styled Madonna, worked for Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue, and began modeling in the ‘60s. Recently, she appeared in campaigns for brands like Coach, The Row, and H&M. These days, Linda is extending her creative vision to Linda and Winks, a luxury dog accessory brand inspired by her muse, soulmate, and best friend, Winky the poodle.
Did you grow up with dogs, and what was your childhood like?
I grew up 30 minutes outside of New York City in a very beautiful, small, and historic Long Island town named Roslyn. My father bought our home in 1949 with the G.I. Bill. We had on a quarter of an acre of land and a charming little house occupied by my parents and my older sister and younger brother and myself—all of whom loved animals of all sorts. Our first dog was Timmy the boxer. And then we got the most darling apricot miniature poodle named Bounce.
We all adored him. After Bounce passed away, we got Hamish, the silver grey miniature schnauzer—who lived to be 21! He was the love of my father’s life and we buried him in our backyard along with all of our other beloved pets.
My mother would always take in birds that fell out of their nests from the trees and she’d nurse them back to health with an eyedropper filled with whiskey. We had hamsters and chickens hatching in the basement under an incubating light. My brother got a baby alligator for Christmas one year. I had a parakeet named Molly. We had quite the suburban zoo.
So, were you surrounded by animals while you were working in fashion, too?
No, sadly I couldn’t manage both. I didn’t have dogs most of my adult life! I was traveling and working nonstop as a fashion stylist and it wouldn’t have been fair to have a dog during those years. I would not have been able to juggle the huge responsibility of having of a dog and caring for it properly with my non-stop travel schedule.
“All dogs are courageous, noble and lovable and unique. With hearts of gold. They bless our lives.”
What are one of your favorite memories from working in fashion?
One of my best memories was doing a photo shoot and TV commercial in Venice, Italy with Bob Dylan. He’s one of my heroes and it was a magical moment. We were shooting in a beautiful abandoned villa overlooking the Grand Canal. Cher was another highlight. I styled her for an ad campaign years ago. She had been my idol during my late teenage years—around 1966—and into the early 1970s. I wanted to be Cher in those days.
When did you decide, with such a busy and fulfilling life in fashion, to get a dog again?
The first dog I got as an adult was a surprise gift. I was visiting a friend in Paris one Christmas and she gave me a Basset Hound puppy for the event. He ended up weighing 75 pounds and was a real handful. Stubborn but adorable. He was the most beautiful and crazy Basset Hound ever. He was so funny and sweet, as Bassets tend to be. They are constantly making you laugh. Everything they do is goofy and hysterical.
When Billy the Basset (I named him after my mother Beatrice, aka Billie) passed away, I knew I had to have another dog. I wanted to choose this new puppy myself, and I had seen three people on the street with really sweet poodles. I asked the three of them where they got their dogs and they all mentioned the same breeder in New Jersey! That was my sign. I immediately made a trip there to find my new pup.
Winky was the first little poodle to approach me. He seemed to know I was the one for him, and vice versa, and I melted instantly as he nuzzled up to me. Although I wasn’t prepared to bring him home—I had no crate or puppy gates or anything for him—it was love at first sight. So, I bought him on the spot, and I went back to pick him up the next week. And now here we are! Nine years later.
How did you train Winky to be such a gentlemen? He’s so well behaved!
Winky’s not really “trained.” I just got lucky. It’s just his nature. He’s a very sweet, gentle and elegant creature. That’s his DNA. And he’s terribly smart and sensitive—and totally in synch with me. I met my soulmate, for sure.
What is your typical daily routine with Winky?
Every morning, we take our first walk to my local MatchaBar for an oat milk cappuccino. Then we stroll for a while, and we return home and settle into our day. I’m lucky to be able to work from home on Linda and Winks, my recently launched dog accessory line.
My time definitely revolves around Winky. I go out early for dinner—if I go out at all—so Winks won’t have to eat too late. I’m a terrible homebody. I’m always happiest at home.
Personally, I like to eat dinner at 5pm, which is why people don’t want to go out with me! But Winky will wait for me to come home before he will eat his dinner. He refuses to eat alone. I make my dinner and put his down at the same time. I’m an egg lover—and so is he. I give him a soft-boiled egg almost every night. I mix it with his kibble and wet food!
We of course sleep in bed together. I wouldn’t have a dog if he couldn’t sleep on my bed beside me.
But—Winky is a bed hog. He pushes me to the side. However, because sleeping is my secret weapon and one of my favorite pastimes, he knows somehow not to wake me up. He never has in nine years. He somehow knows to wait for me to open my eyes before he makes a move. He’s very sophisticated and intuitive that way. He respects my habits.
I usually wake up at 9am. I like to get 9 hours of sleep. We are both very good sleepers.
Do you ever have “me” time away from Winky?
I’m laughing because Winks won’t allow me to take a bath alone. And I take a bath every night. He sits by the tub and waits for me to get out. Sometimes patiently, and other times, he will start barking if I’m lingering there too long. So, it depends on his mood how long I can relax and enjoy it!
You have an extensive seashell collection in your home. Do you know how many you have and where they are all from?
Oh my. I’ve never counted them. But I’d say over 500—including all the itty bitty ones! I do know where most of them are from: mostly the Caribbean, Panama, Long Island. And most recently, New Zealand and Australia. (Full disclosure—I have bought a few amazing ones—a giant half clam shell that I found on my way to Key West about 20 years ago, and a few large whelk shells at the flea market many years ago.)
I’m a Pisces and shells and the ocean mean a lot to me. All things aquatic form a large part of my iconography.
“I wouldn’t have a dog if he couldn’t sleep on my bed beside me.”
Tell us about Winky’s grooming routine—how do you like him to look?
I don’t like Winky to look fancy. I tried a few different styles in the beginning, but I started to feel guilty that I was torturing him at the groomer. It just wasn’t necessary for him to look like topiary. Now we go to Downtown Doghouse; the groomer’s really lovely. He gets a simple cut: skinny little legs and a short snout. No frills. I like to see his charming shape. Poodles have hair and not fur, so he doesn’t shed. In fact, I’m the one who sheds. My hair is all over the place. My Basset Hound was a shedding machine, and I still find Billy’s hairs randomly around my apartment ten years later.
How did your luxury dog accessory line, Linda and Winks, come about, and were you inspired by Winky?
Winky was my inspiration and muse for Linda and Winks because—I know it sounds like a cliché—if I can’t find something I really like, I try my best make it somehow. There was never anything I wanted to buy in a pet shop. I’ve been in the fashion business for so long—I was a fashion stylist for 40 years—and I’ve made many costumes and lots of custom clothing. So, I feel like I had a head start on that level. I personally like clean and chic stuff for Winky and myself. But for him, it was not easy to find.
I didn’t want to use leather, so I used pleather for the leash and collar sets. On the reverse side of the pleather is denim. Denim is just my thing. I’ve been wearing 501 Levi’s since I was five years old and I’m still in denim 90 percent of the time.
Since I’ve been making so many things for so many years in fashion and knew all the best places to go for fabrics of all kinds, I just approached it like I was making something for myself. What would I like to wear? Perhaps I’d like a belt that was red on one side and denim on the other. You know, I just approached it from my point of view, the way I like to look. I’m not frilly. I’m more of a tomboy, wearing my 501 Levi’s. I started with six leash-and-collar options on the original website, and now I have 10, and I’m coming out with eight more fabrications in a few weeks.
Other than the 501 Levi’s that inspire Linda and Winks, do you have any other favorite denim brands?
Oh, yes. I have three wonderful “hullabaloo”-style jeans from Ellery, which I got in Australia a few years ago. And other favorites are some Carhartt jeans that I found in the boys’ department at a sporting goods store out west a while back.
You’re wearing silver boots in our photographs, but you’ve spoken in the past about sneakers being part of your personal style. Is that still true?
I wear flats 90 percent of the time because comfort is my main objective. I love my Adidas Stan Smiths and my Nike Cortez. I get the classic styles of both. I don’t love the new trendy clunky sneakers or the bright colorful styles—I usually get them in white or black. But, I do have a wonderful pair of silver Junya Watanabe high tops.
Finally, who is Winky and what do you want the world to know about him?
I think of Winky as my best friend and constant companion. Dog-human relationships are profound. They’re like none other. Hard to explain, but every dog lover-owner knows exactly what I’m trying to say. Winks is always excited to see me. He always has the same love and enthusiasm—if I go to the bathroom, he’s excited when I come back. All dogs are courageous, noble and lovable and unique. With hearts of gold. They bless our lives.
Photography by Tayler Smith