FIDM graduate Christina Ruiz’s decade-long dream of starting her own clothing store recently took form with TopShelf Boutique, San Francisco’s first and currently only fashion truck.
After graduating with a degree in Merchandise Marketing, Ruiz did a stint at the corporate buying office of Macy’s West and shortly came to realize that the “9-5 lifestyle” simply wasn’t for her. But even after that the road to TopShelfStyle was neither short nor easy.
“Once I decided to go with the truck concept, everything kind of just fell into place,” she continues. “Personal loans just started coming in; people were way excited about it and it was an exciting shift in the business model.” The headaches of flaky landlords, exorbitant leases, being outbid by more established small business and business bank loan rejections became a thing of the past.
Catering to women who seek edge and affordability, Ruiz’s stylish mobile boutique is equipped with a fitting room and her latest handpicked clothing and accessories, often from long and diligent scouting trips to the wholesaling district of Downtown LA.
Ruiz has also been attending fashion tradeshows to scout out styles and designers, which made things easier when she was ready to start buying for TopShelfStyle.
When asked about her current TopShelfStyle favorites, Ruiz replies, “This is a hard question to answer because I handpick everything in the truck so I kinda love it all.”
One of the most challenging aspects of being “your own buyer”, Ruiz says, is “getting out of your head enough to buy not only what [you] like but to pick items that will sell.”
TopShelfStyle fashions she’s obsessed with at the moment? “…all sorts of leggings and blouses that are long in the back and high in the front.” Other current favorites are chunky accessories and neon colors.
On the general aesthetic, Ruiz says, “TopShelf Boutique is about style, not brand name. It is for women who like edgy, more unique fashion rather than mainstream. I wanted to create a ‘boutique vibe’ without the boutique price point.’”
Ruiz, who is also Chairwoman of the West Coast Mobile Retail Association, officially opened TopShelf Boutique for business at the Urban Air Market in Hayes Valley May 6. As for the future, @topshelfstyle is the Twitter feed to follow for fashionistas who want to pop by, and the next step in Ruiz’s dream is to start designing a private label.
That doesn’t seem to far off, as she’s working on a “small” TopShelf handbag line to be released in the next two weeks.