Fashion on a truck doesn’t have to be fast. In a consumer-driven society of fast fashion, in which companies are always rolling out the season's latest trend, Elisa Sain and Valerie Armas, the business partners behind the mobile pop-up shop VASE, couldn’t be further from that model.
VASE is a versatile truck that doubles as a pop-up shop for different brands, events, and a line of LED light-up shoes the pair sells, both online and on wheels. They stock the truck with various apparel, items, and goods created by local artisans and stop at various events around Miami. Recently, Armas and Sain turned the truck into a living room to support a local cause for stylist and designer Angeles Almuna, and in the coming weeks, they'll release another design from the VASE collection.
Neither Sain, 22, nor Armas, 23, has studied fashion or business, so they’ve been learning along the way. The desire to push their creative boundaries and the local artistic community keeps them motivated, they say.
“At the time, I was binge-watching Breaking Bad, and I relate that to how the idea [for VASE] came to my mind. I stayed inside for two weeks watching it, and the fact that they had a meth lab in a trailer — I think the idea clicked and one day. I just woke up and started doing research,” Sain says.
The boss ladies invested a total of $20,000 into the truck they found on Craigslist, taking three months to remodel it before launching the store last October. Rental rates start at $400, depending on the use. As part of their services, Armas and Sain can also create marketing strategies and stock the truck completely for their clients. They have a driver who takes care of the navigation, and enlisted the help of Sain’s graphic designer sister to create the logo of the brand. “It’s crazy to have these two complex ideas and to work on them at the same time. The idea of the shoes was great, and it’s a great product to start off with, but we didn’t want only to sell online. I think what’s behind all of this is wanting to make other people excited. Once people go inside the truck, they are really enthusiastic about it,” Sain says.
Sain and Armas designed the look of the sneakers too; they're made to play on old-school nostalgia, referencing children's light-up sneakers, but with a modern twist. The shoes have a button that changes the setting to one of seven colors, including a shuffling option. The shoes can recharge, and a foot
“It’s difficult for us to define who our target is because we have customers from 8 to 94 years old. It’s more about why people buy them. We all miss those times when we didn’t have any concerns. It’s amazing that you can be 25 and have light-up shoes. We get people from all different backgrounds,” Sain says.
“You have to be comfortable with yourself and not care what people think of you,” Armas adds.
With little training, the VASE duo has looked to others when the business needed support. Now that their vision is off the ground, Armas says, they're hoping to pay it forward.
“Being an entrepreneur is challenging, but it comes with a unique set of gifts. It’s very important that we all help each other, because that’s the only way. In a world where everything is huge, mass- and over-produced... people making a difference need to help each other grow,” Armas says. “In the end, if you do it alone it’s not as gratifying as knowing you helped people on their journey too.”
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