WOODBRIDGE, VIRGINIA - Danelle Johnson has been designing and sewing her own clothes since she was a teenager.
Today, she's a fashion entrepreneur, with her own boutique... with a twist. It's on wheels.
Tiny house, big dreams
After graduating from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles, Johnson returned to her to home state, Virginia, and — this January — launched The Tiny House of Fashion.
“The theme is 'We’re tiny, but we dream big,’” Johnson says. “A lot of people thought I was crazy, but now they see the vision and they totally understand it.”
Johnson drives her tiny showroom to locations around Woodbridge, where she lives.
“Everywhere I go and they see this tiny house, people want to know what that is," she said. "Once they see it, [they go] 'wow and you have a boutique,' they automatically think this is amazing. So being mobile, I think, really helps. It separated myself from a mall location.”
But being mobile took some getting used to. “The biggest thing of course is pulling a trailer,” Johnson admits. “I’ve never had to pull a trailer until I decided to this. As well as the power, the electricity, sometimes since I’m mobile, I have to find a way to power everything here, to make it comfortable to everyone. Also securing things when moving and driving to make sure that nothing falls, nothing breaks.”
Cozy and attractive in a big way
Johnson transformed the interior of her shop into a welcoming, homey environment. Floor-to-ceiling glass windows on two sides let in natural light, which helps brighten the small space where Johnson displays her wares. Hand-picked designs hang from two garment racks attached to the interior walls.
Customers use a full-length mirror and a fitting room to try on clothes. A comfortable bench allows visitors to sit and also provides storage for more merchandise.
Johnson gets the clothing she offers from different places, and says that makes her collection unique.
“All of the clothes are made in the U.S.,” she says. “So a lot of the clothes are from the West Coast, California. I like to do a lot of research on different clothing. I also design clothes. I’m also going to have local designers design for me.”
Alicia Jones, a social worker and a mother of two, learned about The Tiny House of Fashion through a friend on Facebook. She is now a repeat customer.
“First of all, Danelle is super personal,” Jones says. “So I love that part of it. But also I mean, if you look at the clothes, it is nothing that you find just by going to a store, not even like that. I see things online, but you never know how it is going to fit, especially me being short, I mean things are going to be taller than I am. So, it’s really nice to have a boutique flare and be able to actually go in and see how it fits on me.”
Excitement and support
The Tiny House of Fashion owner is excited about customer feedback and sees the potential of her mobile boutique to expand.
“Actually, the beauty of being a mobile is I can go to customers,” Johnson explains. “So, if a bunch of girls are getting together for a girls’ night, or an office want me to go there during their lunch or anything like that, it’s very easy for me to do that.”
Dominique Arielle Duncan modeled her friend's garments at the shop's Grand Opening fashion show in June, and is happy Johnson's business is doing so well.
“She is already doing a great job with expanding and finding different locations to set up. So as long as she keeps doing that, she’s on the right track,” she said.