By Melissa Landeros
Photos by Virginia Tieman
A vintage inspired white ceiling, a hot pink fitting room, clothing racks on two sides, and a driver/passenger seat up front. Now in most boutiques if not all there would never be a driver or passenger seat, but this is not your ordinary boutique. This boutique is a large four wheel, metal gray truck detailed with a woman’s silhouette on the outside known as a fashion truck, more specifically as TopShelf Boutique.
Fashion trucks have been trending for the past couple of years. Some of the most recognized fashion trucks are in California. Fashion trucks offer unique, hand picked items, at different price ranges, and bring a whole new meaning to shopping on the go.
For those who did not know San Francisco has its very own fashion truck. In May of 2012 Christina Ruiz launched TopShelf Boutique, making it the first fashion truck to hit the streets of the city. Her boutique features vintage handpicked women’s clothing, and accessories by local designers, and upcycled items. Upcycling is the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of better quality or for better environmental value.
SF State student Lisa Khiev says, “I think the idea of a fashion trucks is smart, I’ve heard so many people talk about initiating that idea but TopShelf is legit.” Lisa believes that the idea in itself is different, which “makes it unique.”
Ruiz, an FIDM graduate always wanted to start a “brick and mortar” boutique, and when approached about starting a fashion truck she says, “I thought it was a crazy idea.” After a good amount of research and mentoring with current fashion truck owners Ruiz was ready to get to business.
Kayla Odwald another SF State student, says “the TopShelf fashion truck offers fashion forward women a new and exciting way to shop in SF.” She thinks it is a great alternative to shopping. Odwald also explains how the concept of fashion being everywhere is just what TopShelf Boutique embodies.
For those who are fans of Stolen Sunday, Sea Pony Couture, Elisa Gonsalves, and or Adina Mills, TopShelf Boutique is the place to shop. This fashion truck also features pieces from the fashion district in downtown Los Angeles.
When it comes to keeping up with trends, Ruiz says, “it’s an everyday process.” In order to keep up and stay on track Ruiz explains how, she reads fashion blogs, follows pins, and looks at what similar styles of businesses are doing. When going on buying trips to tradeshows, she gets to see samples of what is to come the following seasons.
San Francisco fashioinistas can find TopShelf Boutique in numerous places from the Treasure Island Flea, Mint Plaza, and Fort Mason. The fashion truck locations are sometimes limited because, “licensing for mobile retail is still a very grey area,” Ruiz says. Fashion trucks have to find open areas around the city to park and sell their items, while hoping no one tells them to move. Currently TopShelf is actively working with city hall to determine a fair permitting process to include mobile retail in its legislation. As for those who are Southern California natives, Le Fashion Truck was the first boutique on wheels based in Los Angeles. The pink fashion truck was inspired by the gourmet food trucks, and was established September of 2010 by Stacey Steffe and Jeanine Romo.
Before the debut of Le Fashion Truck, Steffe and Romo had their own businesses of selling handmade and vintage wares. The duo sold their items in local boutiques, festivals, and events while always having the desire to open their own retail stores. When Steffe approached Romo with the idea of starting their very own store on wheels, she was thrilled, Stacey says.
Le Fashion Truck features an array of merchandise from up and coming designers all over the country. The pink truck even has a hint of San Francisco to it, as it features the jewelry designer MishMash. Dresses by Jenny Carle, graphic tees by L.A. designer Spectre, and designs by an Australian brand called Ladakh are other featured pieces in the fashion truck.
Another unique thing about Le Fashion truck aside from the fact that it is a boutique on wheels, is that it features vegan leather handbags. The leather handbags are from PETA the certified company Urban Expressions.
The numerous pieces found in Le Fashion Truck stay on trend because Steffe and Romo are active in the fashion world. They go to trade shows, visit L.A. showrooms at least 2-3 times a month, and attend fashion week events.
Steffe and Romo even started a national association for mobile retail truck owners called the “West Coast Mobile Retail Association,” which Steffe is the president.
Continuing with the trend is J.D. Luxe another featured mobile boutique in Los Angeles. Jordana Fortaleza and Tyler Kenney came together to produce their own fashion line. Fortaleza explained how they wanted a “fun-innovative way to launch their line! Just like Steffe and Romo, J.D. Luxe was inspired by the mobile food trucks around L.A. that led to the making of their fashion truck. Having a mobile boutique, Fortaleza and Kenney can travel from place to place to different demographics to showcase their line. They also collaborate with their FIDM colleagues to showcase their designs, and work with local L.A. designers.
Owner Fortaleza says, “What you get from J.D. Luxe is a taste of Tyler and my fashion style! I love comfort, sexy, and class and Tyler is very fashion forward and edgy!” For those that styles consist of boho chic or edgy J.D. Luxe is the boutique to go to. For bay area natives who cannot make it to Fortaleza’s and Kenny’s fashion truck their website is the best alternative for shopping.
Just like most businesses the fashion trucks have had “hiccups” when first starting out and have gradually succeeded with their endeavors.
TopShelf Boutique, Le Fashion Truck, and J.D. Luxe are apart of the West Coast Mobile Retail Association, and know each other very well. While all the owners are in the same business they agree that they each offer unique styles and items for their shoppers.