Indi Loves Harlie operates out of St. Augustine Florida selling cute wears and accessories garnished with their one of a kind applique designs. The owner opens up about the challenges of operating a trailer versus a truck and also gives us insight into what inspires her artwork.
FFT: Why did you decide to start a mobile boutique?
ILH: My mother owned clothing stores when I was growing up. I always loved clothes, putting outfits together, and decorating the store windows. One thing I didn’t love was having to put in regular hours and maintain the shop hours schedule.
I starting making clothes in 2008 when the housing market collapsed. I was a real estate appraiser and the jobs stopped coming over. I saw an ad for a “trunk show” at one of our local venues and decided to go for it. I spent a few weeks making clothes and appliqué pieces to prepare for my first show.
That night at the Trunk Show I sold every piece. It was amazing! It felt really good. So I kept making clothes. I started setting up at the local farmers markets and putting pieces in local yoga studios. One local art gallery even featured me as the artist of the month! It was so rewarding, unlike putting appraisals together.
FFT: How did you find your truck and what decisions went in to purchasing it? What was the cost of the truck?
ILH: The trailer was designed and built by my father-in-law. He used the camper for hauling his motorcycle and camping. It was complete with kitchenette, working shower, and air conditioning. It was a tiny house on wheels. I loved it. The idea for the fashion truck hit me when my father in law tried to sell his hand built pop-up trailer. He didn’t get any takers after a few months of trying on Craigslist and eBay.
So, I asked him to sell it to me, but he didn’t see my vision and wondered how it would work for me. A few weeks went by and he emailed an article from the Tampa newspaper that read “fashion trucks are the next food trucks” and he understood my vision. He decided to give it me as a gift! What!!!!! Best father-in-law ever!
FFT: Did you renovate the truck or did you decide to contract it out? How long did the process take?
ILH: My husband (Dan) and I repurposed the trailer last summer. We moved one bed bench on top of another and made a taller work bench, so I can work on the road. We turned the head into the dressing room, and the drawers into hanging racks.
We removed the fridge and turned that space into a hanging rack and hung driftwood from the ceiling for another hanging rack. I did the painting and the designing and Dan did the construction and laid a wood floor down. I made curtains and added pieces of driftwood for hanging and displaying merchandise.
FFT: Tell us the story behind your brand.
ILH: The name Indi Loves Harlie comes from our dogs. Dan and I met in our early 20s. I had Harlie for about a year when I met Dan and he soon after adopted Indi. Indi and Harlie are no longer hear on this planet, but they truly did love each other and lived for 12 years together.
FFT: Tell us about the products you sell.
ILH: I make handmade appliqué on existing clothing. Appliqué is what I do best. It started when my favorite concert T-shirt was beyond repair. I cut out the band logos and graphics and stitched them on a new T-shirt–giving new life to my old favorite!
I also make clothes from my own patterns as well. I make wrap skirts with detachable purses, pillows, wall hanging art, wearable art, kids dresses, shorts, pants, Lycra yoga shorts and tops, tank tops, shirts, and kimonos. I make everything I sell and every piece is different. I don’t make one shirt in every size, I make one shirt. So you can feel confident you have a one-of-a-kind item made with love.
FFT: What are some lessons learned?
ILH: I have learned many lessons owing my own business. It is a constant learning process. My biggest lesson is learning to hitch up, pull, and drive with the trailer, which I am still trying to conquer. I will have to do that all on my own hear pretty soon.
Right now my husband drives and helps with attaching the trailer securely. However, he works off shore every two weeks for a two week period. When I head out on the road this spring, I will have to be fully capable of doing so on my own. We are sailors and race our sailboat all over the east coast, so pulling a trailer isn’t something new for me, I’ve just never had to do it on my own.
FFT: What advice do you have for future mobile boutique owners?
My advice to other mobile boutique owners is to find a drivable truck, not a pull behind trailer!
Most of all, have fun. Go to fun places and see the sights! Get inspired by travel, meet new people and try new things!
FFT: How would you describe your personal fashion style?
ILH: I am a white T-shirt, jeans, and boots girl most of the time! I like to be comfortable and not flashy with accessories. I love a cozy scarf. I love clothes that fit well and flatter, but nothing tight. I have a classic, timeless sort of style, I think.
I don’t follow trends. I like clean classic looks with simple lines. Neutral colors and earth tones are my favorite. I love white and off white, black and white together is always lovely. In the summer I live in my flip flops, bikinis and yoga clothes. It is hot and muggy here and I am always in the water or on it!
FFT: What is your best-selling item/product?
ILH: My best sellers are my appliqués. They are whimsical designs on comfy clothes and every piece is unique and different. I like whales, dolphins, elephants and I am passionate about saving them from poachers and captivity. I love warm water, sunshine and all water sports.
So you will see a lot of cetacean advocacy in my designs as well as water, waves and sunshine!
FFT: Out of all the items that you have available for sale, what is your favorite?
ILH: My favorite items are the clothes I have made for my little nieces and nephews. Seeing them wear something I made melts my heart!
FFT: What’s your tactic for collaborating with local businesses?
ILH: I love St. Augustine, Florida. It is an artists community and the businesses are so supportive of local artist. We have amazing art galleries and wonderful musicians and every first Friday those two magical things come together. It’s fantastic.
I collaborate with one gallery in particular because they are wonderful humans and their shop is one of a kind, Simple Gestures Art Gallery (shop features over 70 local artists). Most of my collaborations with local businesses are events where there are other vendors participating.
FFT: Any tips for leveraging social media to promote your mobile boutique?
ILH: Social media has been my best outlet for letting people know what I’m doing and where I will set up next! Hashtags on Instagram have really helped with exposure as well. I have gained new followers and received several orders because of proper hashtaging. Or shameless hashtaging as I like to say.
FFT: How do you decide on where to park?
ILH: I have a lot of scheduling to complete for my upcoming spring and summer trips. The county I live in does not allow mobile businesses to pull over and park just anywhere. I have to work out where I will park with the business owners and property owners. I can not park in public spaces or on public property and open for business.
I plan on going north this summer and stopping along the way in different cities where I know people and I have some connections. I plan on being on the road for a few months doing festivals and other similar events.
FFT: If you could have any celebrity / entertainer buy / model your clothing, and/or visit your mobile boutique…who would it be?
ILH: If I could have a musician a famous person where my clothes, it would have to be Donavon and Petra Frankenreiter. I love the life they live and their personal style is simple, comfortable, worldly stylish and a touch of rock and roll. Their home, their clothes, their travels, their gorgeous kids. My friends used to play in his band and travel with him and I got to meet him. He has a great style about him. They have a shop called “the barn 808” on their property I would love to visit one day. I know this because I follow them on Instagram, not because I know them personally.
I also love Dave Rastovich and Lauren Hill. Lauren and I used to work at a surf shop together years ago. She was just a grom. She now lives in Byron with Dave and lives an extraordinary life traveling, surfing, writing and loving life! They have an adorable hippy style that is simple and sustainable.
FFT: How can we find you?