Island Stylin’: Exotic Edition

Sun Dog Celebrates 20 Years

Explore Fashions From Around the World
By SANDRA WEYANT | Jul 24, 2018
Photo by: Ryan Morrill

Take a trip to Asia without leaving Long Beach Island. Set foot inside Sun Dog, and experience full immersion in the cultures of Thailand, Indonesia and India.

“This is my 20th season, and my inspiration for originally opening the store was travel,” store owner Michelle Palladino said. “I had been traveling to Bali and other places, and I settled on Long Beach Island. I thought a lot about what I could do around here to support myself, but that also included living a life of travel.

“I was making my own greeting cards and incense, and I bought a few different things. The first few years were tough because I wasn’t sure if the store should be surf-focused or travel-focused. Over the years, it became more eclectic and ethnic, and that’s what I love. I love color and vibrancy, and wanted to create a space for people to be comfortable. I love to come in here. It’s calm and it feels good, and that was really my goal when I opened the store. It’s pulling together everything I really enjoy, and it’s nice to hear that other people enjoy it, too.”

For Sun Dog’s birthday celebration, the shop is hosting a party in which all proceeds will be donated to David’s Dream and Believe Cancer Foundation, a nonprofit organization formed in 2011 that provides financial assistance, wellness services and hope to New Jersey families battling a cancer diagnosis.

The event will be held on Friday, July 27, at Daymark Restaurant in Barnegat Light from 7 to 11 p.m. and will commence with a Sun Dog fashion show. Daymark’s kitchen will provide hors d’oeuvres, and there will be a few raffles and a silent auction. August and Oak, an indie-meets-folk band, will perform a live set, which will then be followed by an epic dance party.

“We wanted our party to be really special, and we wanted to raise money for a good cause. We decided on David’s Dream and Believe Cancer Foundation because they do great work and they really help our community a lot,” Palladino said. “In terms of the event, we’re all about dancing and having fun, so we incorporate that into everything we do.”

Sun Dog prides itself on its authentic Bohemian, free-flowing fashions that are unmatched anywhere else. There is only one way to get the full cultural experience and stock the store with unique treasures: traveling. Every year, Palladino and/or her associates take off in the wintertime for about five to six months to explore emerging trends, new fabrics and accessories in India, Indonesia and Thailand.

“It’s a journey. We wander, we do markets. We work with our tailors, and we are always looking for new fabrics,” Palladino said. “We don’t know what we will find in each country each year, and we just go with what we love and think other people will love.”

Palladino has her own team of tailors and cargo agents in Bali who ship the products to her LBI store when they are finished. Everything is 100 percent original and hand-crafted. Most garments are made from batik fabric from Indonesia or special tie-dyed clothing. The shop also sells curtains, bedspreads and other home décor stitched from recycled sari fabrics.

Sun Dog carries a wide assortment of comfortable silhouettes – flowy pants, dresses, tops, kimonos, shorts, skirts, sarongs and more – in the brightest and boldest color combinations you can imagine. Each garment makes a statement by itself, but customers can also accessorize with printed fabric purses or scarves.

When ordering batches of her clothing, Palladino requests only 20 or so pieces of a particular style because it is often difficult to predict what will sell well from year to year. “When it’s gone, it’s gone. It’s fun for customers because they have a highly original garment that 50 other people aren’t going to be wearing,” Palladino said.

As Palladino works to diversify her inventory, she has experimented with a few new styles with embellishments. “This year, we brought in a few higher-end pieces that people can wear out to dinner or for fancier occasions, like weddings. Not everything is casual wear. As the store grows, our pieces are developing character. They are not as simple,” she said. Selected pieces have embroidered designs, little bells or shiny sequins for some added flair.

Store manager Taylor Thorn recently went on a mission to India to find the most beautiful jewelry. She selected a variety of different mala beads to create garlands and necklaces. Typically, the process involves picking loose stones and designing each look. Thorn also searched for costume accessories and fine silver jewelry. Statement stone rings are best sellers at Sun Dog because they are stunning but also affordable; Palladino’s prices are just right.

“We don’t really ever worry about what’s trending. The store is so different, and we just do what we want to do. It is more like keeping up with the Sun Dog look we are trying to give off – comfortable, flowy, colorful, vibrant and fun – something different. The material is unique and the patterns are one of a kind. We are always authentic,” Thorn said.

Travel around the world and back again in one night. Tickets for Sun Dog’s birthday celebration are $40 and are available for purchase at the door or at Eventbrite.com.

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