New Form of Retail Hits Malibu Streets

If you think there’s nothing new under the sun, keep your eyes peeled for the 27 Miles Malibu clothing truck, a new type of business that first rolled into Malibu this August.

The mobile shop and showroom may look like a fancy food truck from the outside, but on the inside, it’s organized like a walk-in closet, full of cashmere sweaters, t-shirts and flashy handbags.

The first of its kind in Malibu, the clothing truck was dreamed up by designer and Malibu resident Katharine Marinaro and her business partners Ernie and Emily Vallorano, after seeing the movie “The Chef.”

“After seeing that, we thought, ‘wow, that would be a great way to market our brand,’” Ernie said.

Two weeks after the idea was born, Ernie claims, they had purchased the bread truck, he had converted it by hand, and it was ready to hit the road. 

In the movie, a chef drives a food truck across the country while his young son uses social media to announce where they will be parking and selling food

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next. Similarly, 27 Miles Malibu reaches out to its 27,000 Twitter followers and 12,000 Instagram followers to let them know where the truck will be. The name 27 Miles Malibu is a nod to the original Malibu Land Grant.

“We love driving the truck up and down PCH, because this is our home town and we want everybody to know,” Ernie said. 

Ernie, who is responsible for many of the logistics involved with the business, including finding the factory in China where the clothes are produced, first partnered with Marinaro, the designer, in 2012 after being introduced by a mutual friend. He later married Emily, whose role in the business is to turn Marinaro’s concepts into real garments. The truck represents a new venture for the two-year-old company.

When it comes to the legal aspect of this type of business, it first seems fairly unprecedented.

“With food trucks, everyone knows they have to have permits, but [for us] it’s a grey area,” Marinaro said.

According to Malibu Planning Director Joyce Parker-Bozylinski, as long as the truck is only selling through retailers and at events, it legally checks out.

“We typically do not allow any retailing from the side of the street,” Parker-Bozylinski said, adding that “as long as they’re part of an event” it is likely not an issue.

“There would be no permit that they’d get from us, there would be no building permit and we don’t issue business licensing,” Parker-Bozylinski added, stating that the county issues these permits.

“We have a seller’s permit, which is what you need, and it’s insured and licensed and it’s got … everything, so – so far so good,” Marinaro said.

According to Marinaro, the truck is one-part mobile shop and one-part mobile trunk show.

A trunk show, in the fashion world, is an event where clothing manufacturers and designers can show their retailers brand new pieces before full production is underway.

“The truck, really, it’s mainly to brand our image and it’s also to help our current retailers by doing trunk shows with them, and filling up our truck with our full collection,” Marinaro said, adding that most of their retailers can only carry a few styles, but the truck allows them to sell a wider variety of 27 Miles clothes.

Some of the local retailers who carry the 27 Miles brand include Planet Blue and Ron Herman.

Carol Herman, the women’s apparel buyer for Ron Herman, said that the 27 Miles brand is popular among Malibu customers, as well as customers in their other store locations.

“It’s selling very well,” Herman said.

Herman added that, while the merchandise is good, they would probably not be interested in using the clothing truck.

“When we bring in merchandise for a trunk show or for an event, we end up selling the merchandise that’s brought in but holding on to the products in our store,” Herman said.

Herman added that it’s a higher priority to sell items they already have stocked, rather than bring in a truck and sell items the store location didn’t order.

“It’s exciting for our customers to meet the designer, but its not great for our business,” Herman said.

According to Marinaro, other retailers do not necessarily feel the same way. She said that they have several trunk shows scheduled, as well as an event at Malibu High School.

“We’re actually going to do a couple school events, too … with Malibu High, with their holiday boutique, so we’ll roll in and we’ll give a percentage to the school,” Marinaro said.

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