When Elle Erickson rolls into town with her van, she brings the party. Don't worry if you don't have a thing to wear, 'cause she's bringing that, too.
The vivacious owner of the Urban Gypsy Trunk Show travels the southeast with her snazzy collection of vintage and designer clothing and accessories, spreading the gospel of upcycled fashion and sustainable consumption with stylish panache. Her circuit includes college towns like Knoxville and Charleston, where she has transformed art galleries and yoga studios into temporary boutiques festooned with frilly frocks, hippie skirts and the occasional papier-mâché animal head.
"I like to create a fantasy atmosphere," says Erickson, who often invites local artisans to join her glittery circus. "I do well where creativity and consciousness tend to thrive."
The Urban Gypsy Trunk Show passed through Savannah last fall and will pop up once again this Friday through Sunday. Hosted by Sicky Nar Nar Gallery & Café, the event is on the free trolley line for Friday night's Art March, and tarot reader Gaby Buffong and local jeweler Mamasnake will add to the revelry throughout the weekend.
Describing her style as "free-spirited, festival-inspired boho chic," Erickson hunts thrift stores and yard sales for eclectic, unique wares and has been known to purge her own closet to keep Urban Gypsy's inventory fresh. She seeks out modern designs to complement the vintage blouses and dresses, citing Free People and Anthropologie as her favorite au courant brands.
"I'm always on the hunt," she vows. "I handpick every piece and I love every single one of them."
While a pop-up shop might sound limited to some, let it be known that Erickson manages to display over a thousand items on her collapsible chrome racks and pouty-lipped mannequins. In addition to racks of garments sized tiny to large, there are bins overflowing with belts, scarves, hats and other rakish accessories in the Urban Gypsy stock.
"Be prepared to spend some time," she warns. "This isn't a breeze-through situation."
Touting the importance of conscious consumption and limiting waste, the itinerant couturier collates la crème of thrift shop fashion in one place. To the shock of capitalists everywhere, most Urban Gypsy pieces run between $4 and $10.
"This is guilt-free shopping because it's all repurposed," she explains, adding that fabulous style doesn't have to be expensive.
"The point is to keep prices low and make people happy."
That's not to say she doesn't court success; she just believes business should be fun—and fair. Currently based in Asheville, NC, she admits she "did the corporate thing" in Charlotte, NC for five years.
"I'm glad I did, because I know I never want to go back there," she says with an audible shiver. "It keeps me motivated."
Erickson also runs workshops on plant-based nutrition, facilitating three-week cleanses and support groups in Asheville. For Urban Gypsy, she usually sets up two shows a month for several days each, enabling her to pay the bills and plan a unique shopping adventure every time she comes to town.
"Elle is definitely part of the experience," says Sicky Nar Nar owner Logan Crabel, who is delighted to host the trunk show again.
"She's got a great eye, and she's an amazing curator."
Crabel is constantly seeking out-of-the box events and art for the gallery he opened with surfing pal Andy Price last March at the corner of Barnard and Duffy streets. (The name is a cheeky amalgam of favorite surf phrases "sick" and "gnarly.") Embracing the notion of sustainability, they furnished the former salon space with benches made from reclaimed palettes, turning even mundane aspects into sculpture. Their acquisition concept features both high-end paintings and small pieces in order to make art accessible to all corners of the Savannah community.
To diversify even further, the business partners recently launched the Nar Bar in the sunny space, a café serving PERC coffee and snacks during daylight hours.
"We're not afraid to break out of the sterile gallery model," explains Crabel, a graduate from SCAD's photography department. "We like to bring high-energy people here."
Erickson certainly fits that description, with her philosophy of healthy living and passion for playing dress-up. Sicky Nar Nar photographer and Crabel's girlfriend Chloe Cryan, who helped woo Urban Gypsy back to Savannah, describes the pop-up shop "as more of a show."
"Elle has such great presence," says Cryan. "She makes everyone her friend."
Erickson admits that her adoration for cute clothes might be outshone by the enjoyment of interacting with her customers.
"These shows are like a stage for me," she confesses with a laugh. "I like the fashion, but I do love having an audience."