Sun Dog Imports, Dressed to Impress on daddy O Rooftop for David’s Dream & Believe

By Monique M. Demopoulos | Aug 07, 2019
Photo by: Ryan Morrill

Long Beach Township — Friday night, the rooftop bar at daddy O ignited in twinkling lights, music and many rich, patterned fabrics in Far Eastern colors. Models did not strut, but danced vivaciously, across the narrow rooftop, which was filled to capacity with locals and travelers alike who came to share in the festivity for a good cause.

Maggie Patella of Cranford happened to be enjoying happy hour appetizers and cocktails with her mother when she was swept up in the colorful carousel. Coincidentally, Maggie said she was visiting with her uncle in Surf City, and staying just above Sun Dog Imports. She happened upon the fundraiser by chance, but decided to stay and participate in supporting Sun Dog and David’s Dream and Believe Cancer Foundation. Her first purchase was a henna tattoo by Katie Lotus of Waretown, who has participated in many Sun Dog events in her 10 years as a henna artist.

Pete Palladino of Manahawkin, speaking proudly of his wife and entrepreneur Michelle, told the story of Sun Dog. “Michelle is from Australia, and she has been traveling since she was 21,” he explained. “She wound up here and founded Sun Dog 21 years ago. She wanted to do something that facilitated her love for travel and fashion.”

Through Sun Dog, Michelle shares a cultural journey with each patron. “Everything was either designed by her or bought from a small shop in Asia,” Pete described, “so there is a story attached to every Sun Dog piece.” Pete shares these passions with his wife, as he warmly recounted how their daughter, Bodhi, took her first steps in Thailand. “Traveling is the best education we can give her,” Pete said. Bodhi, now 7, waltzed the runway among the models who showcased their exotic Sun Dog threads.

According to Pete, Sun Dog celebrated its 20th anniversary last summer, and Michelle made sure there was a proper party, with proceeds going to David’s Dream and Believe. This year, she decided to throw a smaller-scale annual event to celebrate the communion of culture and community through Sun Dog Imports. Given Pete is executive director at Fearless Restaurants, they decided to hold this year’s event at daddy O. “We figured let’s do it on the rooftop, where it’ll be fun and cool,” he explained.

Of course, the fashion show was a party with a purpose. “Some of our good friends are incredible artists and have donated prints,” Pete said. “We’re auctioning everything from bottles of wine to tickets to Sea Hear Now Festival.” He expressed his family’s wholehearted support for David’s Dream and Believe. “David’s Foundation has a big presence here. We’ve all lost loved ones to cancer. What’s great about David’s is they impact families in our community. It’s good to be able to see the work making a difference in the lives of people we know and love.”

Megan Pawlowski of Barnegat collected donations and distributed raffle tickets for the bounteous auction. “We have donations from local boutiques, yoga studios, artists and healers,” she described. “And, of course, we are giving away a ‘Sun Dog basket.’ This is very important to Michelle. She loves this foundation.”

Pawlowski said this has been her first season working at Sun Dog, which was always her favorite store. “It’s like a dream come true. It’s hard work, but I’m grateful to be surrounded by creativity and fashion.” She continued, “I think Sun Dog will be a part of me for years to come!”

Michelle made sure to give a special thanks to Taylor Thorne, her trusted companion in travel and fashion, who contributed a major effort to the fashion show.

Thorne shared that Sun Dog was always her favorite shop growing up, as she enjoyed the cultural immersion. “When you walk into Sun Dog, it’s like walking into a shop in Indonesia,” she said. A kindred spirit to Michelle Palladino, she became part of the team three years ago. Each year, Thorne manages Sun Dog during the summer season, and in the fall, sets off on an expedition to Bali, Thailand and India to source unique fabrics and tailors. “My work is literally treasure hunting,” she said, grinning.

Thorne reiterated that every Sun Dog garment is designed by either Michelle or Thorne from hand sourced fabrics. Nothing is ordered remotely or purchased wholesale.

Through her exotic fashion journey, and with the help of Michelle, Thorne cultivated Yaatree Bazaar, a sister brand to Sun Dog. Yaatree Bazaar, Thorne explained, takes an abstract twist on the distinctive Sun Dog vibe. While Sun Dog garments dress to a way of life, Yaatree Bazaar garments are designed for bold expression. “These are mostly statement pieces, like kimonos, jackets and jewelry. We even have a men’s line,” she said.

Yaatree Bazaar certainly made a statement during the Sun Dog fashion show, as signature garments adorned exuberant models, including Thorne herself. After the show, Thorne was still wearing an ornate necklace she had sourced/designed in Vietnam, which made for an excellent conversation piece. In addition to this piece, she and accompanying models wore a colorful array of bangles. Thorne made sure to accentuate these, jingling her wrists strikingly as she danced across the rooftop.

Other pieces featured in the show included long dresses and flowing skirts, vibrant kimonos and scarves, long and short rompers, paired crop tops and skirts, and even some casual wear. The models were as diverse as the garments they wore, vastly ranging in height, weight, age, race and, most importantly, personality. Thorne explained the garments were meticulously chosen for the person sporting them, so each model was dressed according to her own style. “If someone’s not feeling it, they’re not wearing it,” she said. Therefore, each model danced confidently to her own beat, no two models having the same cadence or style. The audience was captivated by the fervor, which showcased not only the spirit of Sun Dog clothing, but also the accommodating nature in which each garment allows subjects to comfortably express themselves.

As enthusiasts of art and culture, Thorne said she and Michelle consider music and dance to be major components of the Sun Dog experience, which they hope to share with the community in a beneficial way. Thorne explained the idea behind the annual fashion show is to “get people talking and moving.” Following the fashion show and auction was a dance party downstairs in the lounge with DJ Lowski.

— Monique M. Demopoulos

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