Sarmiento got the idea from watching a food truck vendor making a killing off grilled cheese. "I went, 'This is crazy, I’m going to go buy a truck off Craigslist and I’m going to put clothes in it and I’m going to start a mobile fashion chain," she says. And that’s just what she did. After securing her ride, she outfitted it to the nines; so far, she’s parked and peddled her wares in Annapolis, Baltimore, and Wilmington. Now her sites are set on the District. The LWFT is set to debut in D.C. on Saturday, April 27, with a stop at the Dupont Market Fair. In anticipation of the launch,
we talked to Sarmiento about the perils of retail, staying on top of trends, and the importance of community.
Photo: Courtesy of Little White Fashion Truck
Had you thought of starting your own brick-and-mortar boutique, or was this just a flash of brilliance?
"It’s funny — the brick-and-mortar and the paying rent and the high overhead is just not something that’s conducive to success anymore in the retail industry, and that’s why people suffer. I knew that back in the White House Black Market days, but we were brick-and-mortar and that’s what we did. But, by eliminating that overhead, I knew that this would be a bigger success. So, as far as ever doing another brick-and-
mortar store, that’s not even an option. In fact, I’m looking to open a Little White Fashion Truck in Nashville the second week in June, and as of right now, we’re scheduled to have 10 on the road in various cities by the end of this year."
What kind of items can we expect to find on the Little White Fashion Truck?
"There are a couple of things that are important: [it has to] be something really really cute and trendy — not something you can get at the mall. We carry a variety of vendors. We have nothing in the truck that’s over
$100, and our average price point is between $29 and $59."
What's the aesthetic inside the truck?
"I think we’re very on-trend. Again, with all the fashion experience that I have — I follow the blogs, and I do the fashion forecasting, and I’m in New York and I do all the street-style research — I think we’re contemporary fashion. We’re fashion-forward, but we’re not over-the-top. I think we’re trendy; we’re a little boho. We have a couple things that are a little rock-and-roll, but that’s a little bit me. It’s always bold colors, and it’s really pretty prints, and it’s soft fabrics, and it’s feminine. It’s hard to explain — there isn’t really one
style. We have shoppers who are 15 and we have shoppers who are 70. So, we have something for everyone."
You plan to hit up Nashville soon — is that the biggest city on the agenda?
"I would say that’s the biggest city. As of right now, it’s fair to say that the next three cities on tap are Nashville, Atlanta, and Charlotte. And Tampa after that."
Anything else we should know about the truck before it arrives?
"I think the 'truck culture' point is a really big point to talk about, too. With the truck, it’s a capitalistic venture, no doubt, but we work really hard to be part of the community and to become entrenched in the community. I sit on a lot of advisory boards for the local schools and local businesses, and we’re trying to [feel like we’re] retail partners, not retail competitors. We never park near other boutiques — we kind of pave our own way so we can create our own retail culture. That’s really important to me and it’s also really important, again, to get involved in the community — that people see us as a valuable [addition].
When you say ‘truck,’ you say ‘mobile fashion boutique,’ people think, ‘Well, that’s kind of transient, and they’re kind of coming and going.’ It’s sort of taking a different approach, because it will be a chain and I think that there’s a certain integrity that goes along with becoming part of that community that you’re in."