The sustainable fashion truck: Sew Love and Cecil the Campervan
Sarah Lancaster set up Sew Love in 2013, with her main focus to promote and teach sustainability through sewing, up-cycling and up-skilling. For just over a year she was based in St Kevin’s Arcade on Karangahape Rd.
Then, inspired by America’s vintage clothes stores selling out of ice-cream trucks, Lancaster went on the road. She took the Sew Love message around Aotearoa by travelling in a solar-powered, mint and cream-coloured campervan called Cecil.
Lancaster has spent the past two summers running sustainable sewing workshops and popping up at markets and festivals from Kaitaia to Invercargill.
She sells her handmade bumbags, reusable totes, surf ponchos and scrunchies, all sewn on recycled fabrics purchased locally, using Cecil’s solar power.
Touring around New Zealand has been “an ever-so wonderful experience”. She’s enjoyed meeting like-minded businesses such as sustainably focussed op shops, recycle centres and farmers’ markets. She may have been travelling solo in Cecil, but says it’s been a community-building experience: “I was rarely alone, and have enjoyed being embraced by customers and fellow small enterprises”.
On K Rd, Lancaster used an Eftpos machine, costing more than $100 a month. Going mobile meant she needed to find a solution for point of sale via her cellphone. Her first summer she used BNZ Payclip “which was great, provided I kept it charged, and had enough data on my phone. This was affordable at $35 per month, even though most of my sales were taken in cash.”
But the next year, a couple of customers suggested doing a bank transfer from their smartphone. “If people are purchasing higher-priced items and don't have the cash, they're more than happy to do their transfer then and there, show me on their phone and then take away their goodies.”
Most Sew Love customers “have stayed a while, had a conversation… a swift Eftpos exchange isn't always essential.”
She concedes, though, that portable payments technology is probably advisable for most mobile retailers selling high-priced items.
Lancaster opened an Etsy store in February, selling her popular bumbags online to festival-goers, both local and overseas. Most Etsy buyers come through Sew Love’s Instagram page.
Markets and independent sellers are well supported throughout New Zealand, she says. “There is a heightened curiosity to where our food and things come from and an increase in supporting handmade, indie, bespoke businesses.”
Now based in Raglan, Lancaster has a short North Island tour of markets and festivals planned for this summer.
She is comfortable travelling on her own “but at the start it took a lot of courage.”
She quickly learned what would attract people. Good signage, and familiar things like a clothing rack helped, as did “dancing about, being super-friendly and spending time investing in local and online connections… people know you're coming and are ready for a hug or a lunge.”