After years working in the fashion departments at InStyle and W magazines, Katie Long decided to go out on her own to become a freelance stylist. Part of that life decision involved a move out to the Rockaways to have more space for her and her husband and their growing family. “I have definitely felt an influx of young professionals who want the peace and serenity of the ocean but the convenience of the city,” says Long.
What came next was The Swellife, a former food truck that Long converted into a mobile boutique selling fashion and accessories in the Rockaways. “This is a small seaside community with very few retail options,” explains Long. “I felt there was a market out here for women who wanted to find fun, stylish beach gear. My store brings a different, eclectic point of view that I felt was missing.”
The truck, formerly a cookie delivery truck, which Long found off Craigslist, features Cole & Son’s flamingo print wallpaper, a skylight, white crown moldings, whitewashed wood floors and even a fitting room, that makes you quickly forget that it’s on four wheels. “I started with what I didn’t want,” explains the store owner. “I had seen other fashion trucks and many of them felt claustrophobic and dark. I wanted this to be a feast for the senses.”
What Long sells in her store are responsibly-sourced global finds along with a few known brands. With her fashion world connections, she was able to procure clothing and accessories direct from local markets and global trade shows. “I started with summer as my inspiration,” says Long of the brands she curated for the store. “I wanted the store to feel personal and intimate, not just because of the small scale, but intimate because of the time and research I have spent personally choosing each item.”
The store carries American brands like swimwear by Solid & Striped and unique handmade items from all over the world including Peruvian textile pouches, Oaxacan handmade woven baskets, hand fans from recycled plastic made in Ghana, Kenyan brass jewelry, and Moroccan woven raffia sandals.
Long has been building buzz via social media and seeing a lot of foot traffic this spring and summer from locals and city visitors alike. So what’s next for the entrepreneur? “I’d like to eventually become a small, seasonal storefront with more offerings or even open a second Swellife in another coastal town,” she says. “Men enter my truck and are immediately bummed I don’t sell menswear!”