As foods trucks continue to take Edmonton by storm, the city still hasn’t grown accustomed to the concept of a clothing truck. Most often it’s a case of mistaken identity; Salgado Fenwick’s travelling boutique looks very similar to a standard food truck. But, even after having almost been kicked out of the artists’ only section at various festivals, mistaken for being an out-of-place food truck, Salgado Fenwick motors on.
Combining the middle names of two 29-year-old designers, Linda Ritter and Shauna Force, Salgado Fenwick’s local clothing brand has made appearances at pop-up events such as the Royal Bison, the Edmonton Fringe Festival and the City Market Downtown since its inception in 2007. But the travelling storefront is something new.
When 124th Street flooded last year, the company’s workspace (which serves as a pop-up store until Salgado Fenwick opens a new coffee shop and storefront this month) was not spared from the waterlogged disaster. To save the season, Ritter picked up an ad at the grocery store for an older man selling his vintage, vehicle “man cave.” So, Salgado Fenwick upgraded from the tents and booths to a boutique on wheels.
Since Salgado Fenwick’s inception – when the designers’ moms encouraged them to showcase their designs at a Fringe Festival booth – the duo were completely content with the standard set-up.
“It was a random collection of things we wanted to see on T-shirts like T-Rexes, blue herons, a bunch of mini goats next to a lion,” says Force of their debut collection. Rave reviews came and customers wanted more of their quirky, fun T-shirts.
Over the next four years, they honed their craft part-time. As Ritter styled hair, Force studied Human Ecology and the business grew at a natural pace. Without the pressure of a paycheque, their designs breathed confidence and originality. A few savings accounts and a bank loan later, Salgado Fenwick took off.
“Our brand is wearable art,” says Ritter. “Everything we draw, we draw by hand, we don’t edit it on the computer.” Now selling all sorts of clothes, home goods, wall hangings and travel totes, the ladies work full-time with a part-time assistant.
Silk-screening small batches of limited-edition prints, three inventive collections are released annually.
“Even if a print is successful, we won’t ride a design or pump out the same print three years straight, we always push ourselves to keep creating,” says Ritter.
They are unable to replicate a past print because they wash out their screens. Favourite animals are “reincarnated” in their designs.
Whether it’s sloths from Costa Rica, manatees in Mexico, or Canadian animals on the side of the road, animal sightings are at the heart of Salgado Fenwick. As Ritter sketches with her imagination, Force nails down specifics. “She’ll get right up close to see what their toenails look like, or the moose’s nostrils,” laughs Ritter.
As for the truck? It’s becoming synonymous with the ramblin’ brand. It’s there as people swarm its station at the Whyte Avenue Art Walk or compare purchased animal T-shirt collections at the City Market Downtown. The ladies hop in and out of it to grab more sizes, colours and sought-after prints. Yet, even then, it’s not unheard of for people to walk up wondering what kind of food they sell.