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Mobile fashion pop up (in a tram)


A truly mobile business is travelling (popping up…) around the streets of Melbourne

Yesterday we nicked out for a quick dose of caffeine in Windsor (not far from home but I drove there anyway… sigh)… as we approached Chapel Street I spied what seemed like a Melbourne tram parked where it shouldn’t be – with tables, chairs and clothing racks clustered outside the doors… looking suspiciously like a pop up shop. I thought I’d better stop and take a look (but admit we had to see the coffee first !)

On the way back I did indeed wander over to inspect… and got chatting with the lovely Leilani Chen, owner of Birney & Co (The Mobile Clothing Tram). Leilani has recognized that mobile retail trucks are certainly very popular in the US and Britain – and it probably won’t be long before the trend hits the streets of Australia too. As their website suggests, her “company strives to be at the forefront of the mobile retail industry… the first to launch amongst Melbourne’s street culture and diverse lifestyle”

And what better way to travel our streets than in a converted bus, decked out to look like a classic Melbourne tram ? Not even a year ago Leilani started working on a concept to send her business out on the road (literally)… moving the store around events and busy locations around Melbourne. She found a unique vehicle out in country Victoria, one of only 3 original bespoke buses which had been built for small-group tours (the other 2 survive also, still moving tourists around the Gold Coast). They had the seats removed, added clothes rails and shelving, a glass display case and a change room down the back – and viola ! – “Birney” was ready for the retail road !

Leilani sources her vintage and contemporary garments (also shoes and accessories) both locally and overseas. She’s off to the US again very soon to select more stock…. all “hand-picked, one-of-a-kind apparel”. Since August last year they’ve been setting up the Birnie & Co store in many of the likely places… Fed Square, Southbank, markets (it’s been very popular at the night markets…) – and they’re on the look-out for more locations. Leilani would love to hear from any venues and businesses interested in hosting her pop up – as long as it’s off-street, on private property. Part of the challenge (she says) is that Councils don’t quite know how to approve her mobile business… and they don’t have a permit to offer. Quite literally, it seems there is no applicable permit for retail trucks… (they’re not as easy to classify as a food truck… go figure !)  I’ll predict that many more mobile retail businesses will soon sprout to attract visitors and trade to popular precincts… if only the permit issue is made simple. Now there’s an opportunity one of our more-progressive Councils should investigate…

This latest application of the pop up concept has been gaining traction and getting some media interest – last September Business Insider Australia quoted around 500 fashion trucks are now roaming the US (there’s even a Fashion Truck Finder website to keep abreast of where and when favorite trucks will be parking next). In July 2012 we discussed a trend of “old delivery-style trucks re-fitted as mobile fashion boutiques, florists and even hair salons !”  A year later commented that “…trucks patrolling the streets of America are not only slinging hash (ie. food trucks), they’re hocking fashion. These unique entrepreneurs are taking a proactive approach to making sidewalk shoppers look good…”

Do you have an off-street location ready to host mobile retail ? Or keen to follow the fashion tram on its travels ? Contact Birnie & Co via the website or their Facebook page.


Birnie & Co          Birnie & Co 2

Birnie & Co 1          Binnie & Co tram

images :  Birney & Co


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