Meet California-based Sandy Lewis-Duvall. She’s the brains’ behind the label The Shabby Dog, an encompassing 360-business platform – an online, bricks-and-mortar boutique with grooming, taxi service and pet product design. Here’s what she had to say via email.
Tell us about yourself?
Sandy Lewis-Duvall: I am the founder and owner of The Shabby Dog, a boutique dog retail store and full service grooming, daycare and boarding facility. My love of animals translates well into my dog business. I understand that each dog is unique and special, and that type of care goes into what my staff and I do at The Shabby Dog everyday. I also have dogs at home, and sometimes they come visit me at work. Having a business that I am passionate about is what has helped The Shabby Dog be successful and an integral part of our community of Sierra Madre, CA.
What inspired you to get into the pet business?
Duvall: Being an animal-lover, I saw that there were no high-quality designer accessories for dogs in the market, nor were such products made in the USA. And as a woman, I thought it would be great to create something for both pets and women. I guess, I was inspired by necessity and lack.
Describe the Shabby Dog Brand
Duvall: The Shabby Dog brand is high-end casual, but functional. It is all about bringing together beautiful and practical elements that make a dog look great, and its owner equally fashionable.
What is your signature design or look?
Duvall: Our signature design is the mixing of rustic and “blingy.” I like putting together a weathered look with a refined and luxurious element. Like Swarovski and worn leather. Our best-selling line, the Sandra Dee Collection is a prime example.
In your eyes what makes a good collection?
Duvall: I look for things that are unique and different. Things that are not seen in the chain pet stores. A good collection always brings together function and classical design. I like to describe my collections as “classical pieces of jewelry for dogs.”
Do fashion trends influence how you create a product?
Duvall: Yes, absolutely. I look at what is “in,” in terms of fashion and what people are wearing or how people are decorating, and I try to design something for the dog. For instance, I created our new neon line of collars and leashes when I noticed that bright neon colors were making a comeback.
Does pop-culture influence you?
Duvall: Pop culture is an influence, but only minimally. I always keep in mind that I am designing for a dog. So the designs have to be cool and hip, but still be practical and safe. I would never create collars with spikes and sharp hardware – even if it’s trendy – because safety is first!
What’s the latest must-have in your collection?
Duvall: Our latest must-have is the Sparkle Collection. This line is affordable and it is western-meets-Hollywood glamour. I, again, made sure it accessorized with its human owner in mind. I created matching Sparkle neck and wrist lanyards for carrying keys and IDs and even poop bags. This eliminates having to bring a purse or stuff your pockets when you take your dog out for a walk.
Where do you get your cues?
Duvall: I keep a pulse on what is going on in the pet industry. I also take note of what is new with owners and their pets. These days’ pets are members of the family – not just backyard dogs. People care more for their dogs and have a greater responsibility of care for them. So I fill that niche by not only providing beautiful accessories, but I’ve also expanded The Shabby Dog to provide grooming, daycare, boarding and a pet taxi. People are increasingly busy, but still love their dogs. We offer them useful solutions and help love their pets in the process.
Describe a “Shabby Dog”
Duvall: The Shabby Dog tag line is “For all dog-kind” and that is exactly what a Shabby Dog is. He is a special and wonderful dog – whether full breed, mixed breed or a mutt! I have a heart for rescues and all these “shabby” dogs have a place in the world! My products and services are geared toward such “shabby” dogs – to make them look great and to make them happy.
Apparently humour plays a role in your apparel t-shirt/dress line. Who created the cartoons?
Duvall: I collaborated with Tom Gammill, who was a writer for “Seinfeld” and who currently writes for “The Simpsons.” I enjoy good humor and I thought, “How fun would it be if we knew what dogs think or if they could talk?”
How important is it for you to state that your products’ are made in North America and why? And, how important are textiles. What do you like working with?
Duvall: “Made in the USA” is important, and we are able to do it because our products are not mass-produced nor are they for the mass market. We keep our production lines and operation small enough so that we can continue to manufacture in the US. This is in keeping with our unique and custom-made designs.
I like leather, and working with different types. I realize that some people may not like genuine leather, so I also have some products that are made of faux leather. I am constantly thinking of ways to develop leather-like materials that look and feel like the real thing.
What was the inspiration behind the dog blankets – for example the cougar blanket?
Duvall: As with trends and certain pop culture inspiration, I came up with the blankets during the time when celebrities where given funny nicknames by the media. In a rather tongue-in-cheek fashion, I came up with an extra-large sized dog blanket for a dog with a big litter to correlate with Brangelina and their growing family. I try to think of creative ways to design products, and sometimes look to the media and Hollywood for ideas.
What are three words would you use to describe the Shabby Dog’s aesthetic?
Duvall: In three words, Shabby Dog is: classic, fun and one-of-a-kind (though that’s not one word).
What tips can you offer on how a canine fashionista can stay stylish?
Duvall: It is important to consider the color palette in whatever you pick out for your dog. I would never put a black collar on a black dog – it would get lost in its fur and coloring! Try for contrast and the personality of your dog. My rule of thumb is: make sure your dog stands out no matter where he is or where you take him. A good looking dog is also a happy dog.
For more information: www.theshabbydog.com