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VOL. 129 | NO. 87 | Monday, May 5, 2014

Thigh High Jeans Prepares to Launch Retail Truck

By Andy Meek

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Painter Kerry Peeples and photographer Ann Smithwick are in the process of renovating a 1970s-era trailer that will allow them to take their Memphis-based blue jean company mobile, spreading fashionable, unique threads across the city.

The women behind the venture Thigh High Jeans are preparing to launch a retail truck that will let them take their store mobile, spreading unique threads across the city.

(Daily News File/Lance Murphey)

Their business is Thigh High Jeans, and they’re preparing to take it to a new level by launching a so-called retail truck that could be ready to roll as soon as next week.

Memphis already has been introduced to the concept of food trucks, and retail trucks like Thigh High Jeans’ fit in that mold. They’re roving shops that can go where they want, bringing the store and inventory with them. And indeed, Peeples said, the mobile arrangement puts Thigh High Jeans in a better position to reach more people, be more nimble and, hopefully, “cover Memphis in denim.”

“The basic idea is to go wherever the people are,” Peeples said. “We’ll have home shows throughout the city. In the beginning, we’ll try lots of different areas all over the city. We want to take advantage of being able to roll.”

Theirs is one in a set of mobile retail trucks formally launching May 8 with an event at Memphis City Hall. That event will see the unveiling of MEMMobile, a small-business incubator focused on developing and launching the fleet of retail trucks, other examples of which include women’s apparel-focused Henny Penny; K’Presha Haul of Fashion, focused on men and women’s apparel; Sache T-Shirt Truck, which will focus on custom-printed T-shirts; and The Bikesmith, focused on bike sales and repair.

The effort to incubate this mobile retail business model is a result of a partnership between the city of Memphis, alt.Consulting and the Mayor’s Innovation Delivery Team.

For Peeples’ and Smithwick’s venture, they enhance their jeans with vintage fabric and embroider unique quotes onto them for each wearer. An inspiration for the way they collect fabric and denim to turn into new threads was Smithwick’s daughter, who a few years ago was “really wanting” some expensive blue jeans.

“We knew we could provide an alternative to that and make it even more creative and exciting and unique,” Peeples said. “And we’re excited about this because while we’ve had a great response from boutique owners that carry our stuff, we’re going to be able to showcase a lot more inventory now. That’s going to make a bigger splash and better impact than just one boutique having an opportunity to maybe showcase one item.”

The pair has expanded the business already. The first item was blue jeans, but in the last few years they’ve listened to customers’ requests and now include items such as skirts and shorts.

The message they spread includes statistics they’ve found that show many people have several denim garments in their closet they’re not using. Bring them to Thigh High Jeans, the pair asks, so they can be not only “up-cycled” and repurposed – but the resale of those garments also carries a social component.

Fifty percent of the profit from each sale is donated to a selected local, national or global nonprofit.

“We’ve had a website shop and offered people to come to our studio space, but we’ve never really had a storefront, so we’re really excited about showing Memphis what they’ve been supporting for a while now,” Smithwick said. “We just created a concept and a product that grew out of a need for an alternative to a status quo pair of expensive blue jeans.

“We wanted to offer a unique, affordable brand to the community, and what we found is people come back for their second and third pair of blue jeans because it’s affordable and they’re all different. The mobile unit allows such flexibility in being able to go to different neighborhoods and not be as stationary as brick and mortar would be, and it offers flexible hours, too.”

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