Formerly a rundown breadtruck left on the side of the road, Retro Rewind can now be seen driving around the city boasting bright rainbow stripes.
Inside, the mobile business is a fashion closet, decorated from floor to ceiling with shelves of footwear, clothes and accessories, and outfitted with a mini dressing room.
Pop-up fashion truck Retro Rewind Vintage & Thrift tours Philadelphia’s festivals, flea markets, parks and university campuses. It typically appears on 13th Street near Norris outside the Tyler School of Art on Thursday evenings, but founder and owner Tia Whitfield is looking for a more high-traffic location on Main Campus.
The shop sells thrifted clothes curated from thrift and outlet stores around the Greater Philadelphia region by Whitfield, a 2004 fashion merchandising and business administration alumna of Nova Southeastern University in Florida. She looks for styles and colors that mix 1980s and 1990s fashion in pieces like corduroy jackets, striped sweaters, band tees and checkered high heels. Most items cost less than $25.
“I always had wanted to be a part of what makes people smile or what makes people happy,” Whitfield said. “I put love into these clothes.”
Before launching Retro Rewind, Whitfield worked in high-end retail stores like Bloomingdale’s and Saks Fifth Avenue, but said she always wanted to open her own business. After struggling to find a permanent location in Northern Liberties, Whitfield decided to create a pop-up store after a friend suggested the idea to her.
Margaux Meyer, a senior printmaking major who is an intern for Retro Rewind, said Whitfield goes beyond normal thrift shopping.
“She’s always trying to help people,” Meyer said. “If you come in there and say, ‘I have a job interview,’ she’ll set up a whole outfit for you.”
Meyer accepted the internship to fuel her creative side. She said learning to put together outfits with Whitfield is an opportunity to experiment with aesthetics, patterns and colors.
“Fashion is art,” Meyer said. “It’s a lot of trial and error.”
Whitfield started the business in June and quickly realized college students gravitate toward retro clothing just as much as she does.
“I’m listening to my market, and my market is college students,” Whitfield added. “My market is a conscious, loving people that are thinking more about our environment and less about Gucci or Louis Vuitton.”
If a student walks away empty-handed, Whitfield asks them what they wish they found in the shop to ensure there is an item for them during their next visit. She said she often spends the entire next day finding the missing pieces to add to her truck.
“I know if I definitely needed a specific thing, I’d ask her,” said Jackie Rosenzweig, a senior painting major also pursuing a teaching degree and frequent shopper at Retro Rewind.
She added Whitfield remembers students’ fashion styles and gives them unique recommendations when they visit her truck.
Through going to college, running a fashion blog and working in high-end retail, Whitfield always wanted to help make others look good, she said. With Retro Rewind, she wants to give students the opportunities she didn’t have as a fashion merchandising student.
“I want to help people move along,” Whitfield said. “I want to help their dreams come true.”