Fashion is suddenly going mobile from Portland to Atlanta, and although there’s an easy comparison to be made with the rising popularity of food trucks, this aesthetic trend seems to be more of a consumer-driven concept. Retailers have been experimenting with new shopping experiences to survive in a global economy that demands richer, more intimate shopping experiences on a hyper-local basis, and this latest alternative uniquely includes flatbed trucks, refurbished airstreams and vintage buses.
Cynthia Rowley, a pioneer of the mobile fashion movement, began with her trailer at Art Basel in 2009. “I believe in the accessibility of fashion at every level,” she explains, and, sure enough, the flexibility of her “Mobile Fashion Unit” allows shoppers to have the store come to them—or even host a shopping party in their driveway. “The Mobile Fashion Unit allows us a greater understanding of markets all over the country, where we don’t have a physical store presence,” adds Rowley’s PR director, Elyssa Dimant. “Getting this kind of rich perspective on what resonates with consumers is really key for us.”
Wanderlust, meanwhile, was inspired by co-owners Vanessa and Dan Lurie’s twin love of the local food trucks in their native Portland and of vintage goods. Last year, they bought a 10′ x 7′, 1969 Cardinal Deluxe trailer, refurbished it and stocked it with a stunningly curated mix of decor and apparel goods sourced from local, international and online vendors alike. “I hear from customers how cozy it is inside and that it feels like a little gypsy caravan,” says Vanessa. “Everyone who comes inside tends to look at every single item, like they’re on a treasure hunt.” Those items include carefully selected pieces like sustainable design from Showpony, Present and Correct‘s printed goods, miniatures from Etsy seller Vector Cloud, work by artist Mary Kate McDevitt and Vanessa’s own line of paper curios, Antelope Baby. True to its name, Wanderlust will travel the West Coast, stopping in Seattle and San Francisco next.
Lodekka, another Portland vendor, fittingly bills itself as “the double-decker dress shop.” After Erin Sutherland, the store’s proprietor, lost her day job in PR in April, she bought a double-decker bus that originally hailed from Liverpool and refurbished it as a dress store. “Sales have been really plentiful, and [even] guys and kids stop in just to check out the actual bus,” she notes. Although the bus doesn’t travel, it’s filled with enough vintage and resale apparel, shoes and other ephemera—from antique dress shields to record albums, matchbooks and games—to keep visitors locally invested.
Fashion Los Angeles, a new organization determined to revive LA Fashion Week in a serious way, was launched by partners Michael Venedicto and Jeff Warrington in early 2009. The duo plans to create a village of temporary pre-fab buildings on top of a parking lot. Trucked in for the week only, the pre-fabs will be paired with other mobile runways like flatbed trucks during the week-long installation. With support from the LA mayor’s office, it looks like these mobile fashion units will be a unique destination for West Coast fashionistas come February.