This summer, we’re running our pop-up, The Edit, in the heart of Niagara-on-the-Lake. “We’re so excited to be popping up this summer in our hometown of Niagara On the Lake! We’ve curated some of our favorite brands at a local and national level. Think of the edit as your chic general store. From fresh bouquets to chocolate cupcakes to the newest in fashion, beauty, and home we have something for the locals and tourists alike!” says Editor-in-Chief of STYLE Canada, Elise Gasbarrino.
The Edit will feature goods from local businesses as well as other Canadian vendors. Our The Edit: Behind the Brands series will take a deeper look at the founders of our participating vendors and their stories. This article features Fashion Truck Canada with Ashley Barber.
Ashley Barber; President & Co-Founder of Fashion Truck Canada
SC: Tell us a bit about yourself!
AB: In 2012 I left my career as a Stylist and Buyer in Calgary and embarked on a new adventure in Ontario after finding love here lol. (Now hubby and baby daddy) I had no clue what I’d end up doing when I got here.
I started a product consulting contract business helping small boutiques build there’s margins through product. I wasn’t totally fulfilled and found it was to much teaching which really wasn’t for me. I dabbled in managing boutiques and working back end for a wholesale agency inputting and distributing from a warehouse (also not for me) I played around a lot with different ideas and have always been the type to think outside the box. When I landed on the idea of #fashiontruck and the idea that the concept hadn’t really been introduced into the Canadian retail market I jumped at the opportunity to create something new and something different.
SC: Tell us the story behind your brand!
AB: Fashion Truck Canada was born in March of 2014. It took a year from the first conversation to finding, gutting, renovating the truck. Finding branding partners, borrowing money, networking and creating partnerships in order to launch the brand successfully to open the back doors. I’d need pages to tell the whole story as it’s evolved. There have been so MANY ups and downs. Moments of success and moments of WTF am I doing.
Given how the business model is structured we’ve been really lucky in that when one thing didn’t work we could pivot and try another.
In the beginning we thought that Festivals, Markets and bigger local events that were open to the public is where we’d find the crowds and in turn generate profit. Wrong. Took us two years of trying to figure out that the overhead and investment was high, and if there’s no fashion culture built into the event, it failed. Time and time after time.
We had managed to secure a handful of amazing locations around Toronto where we could park the truck for the day and open the doors like a regular boutique. Guys, this was hard but it worked. We had locations in Toronto Hot Spots like Trinity Bell Woods, Liberty Village, King & Portland, Young & McPherson, Queen East. They were all privately owned but public lots (we can’t park and operate on city property) so in order to get the parking spot for the truck I woke up at 5am, moved the truck into its spot for the day, I’d jog home from wherever I was in the city back to our condo in Etobicoke, get ready for work, I’d drive back to the truck to open the doors for 11am, we’d be open from 11-7pm and then I’d pack the truck up, drive my car home. My BF (now husband) would have to drive me back to the location of the truck, follow me back to the trucks parking in Liberty Village and then drive us home. I did this a MILLION TIMES. It worked, it payed the bills but it sure as hell wasn’t easy.
In 2017 a customer asked if I would park the truck in her driveway and she would have all her friends over to shop and drink wine!?!? Ummmmmmmm yes, yes I will. This is when the light when on, you know how Oprah talks about that ah-ha moment!?!? This was mine.
Fast forward to 2022, 85% of our business (truck not talking online) is Private Shopping Parties, 15% business collaborative pop up events where we’re open to the public and our perspectives have shifted from a “try anything and see if it works “to strategic partnerships that work and are successful. This spring it will be 10 years. WOW!
SC: What inspires you?
AB: Our community, it’s organically grown and authentic and it really does keep me inspired. My family’s never ending support. Opening a truck in a store sounds nuts but no one flinched (maybe just a little) lol. Regardless, they have been here for every success, every failure.
Changing trends, fashion culture moves as a quick pace. Every season presents new ideas and I draw from that. Style inspires me, yes I LOVE trends but they’re not for everyone. True style is for everyone, it’s an expression, a first impression and often reflects how we feel about ourselves.
I love when I see someone who has authentic style that doesn’t reflect a magazine, Instgram or Pinterest board.
SC: What does 2022 hold for you?
AB: Fall is the coveted season for fashion so we’re excited to be into pre fall now. Every box that comes feels like Christmas. We’re planning some really cool events for Fall winter. The calendar is full of shopping parties and pop ups. We’ve had some amazing conversations surrounding expansion and growth of the business for 2023…. stay tuned.
SC: And lastly, where’s your favourite spot to vacation?
AB: Ohhhh so many places I haven’t been yet but to date Thailand, Mexico, Australia, B.C (home sweet home) oh and I love LA oh and the Oregon Coast.
On my bucket list: Greece, Italy, Maldives, Bali, Costa Rica, Africa… basically I want to see as much of the world as I can.
Find Fashion Truck Canada at our pop-up happening in Niagara-on-the-Lake, at 1-233 King Street! For more information, visit style.ca/events.