Your spring trend report and an exclusive Q&A with Cara of Steps to Steelo
All items listed are available at Steps to Steelo.
Printed pants are one of those seemingly-difficult cool girl trends to pull off, but once you take the leap it’ll be hard to go back to your less comfortable jeans.
Crop top, $16; Embossed leggings, $28; 9five sunglasses, $90.
Crop Tops and Circle Skirts
These pieces are an easy way to dress up and show off your legs without sacrificing comfort.
Crop top, $16; Circle Skirt, $28, Geo gold necklace set, $21; 9five mosaic sunnies, $90.
Florals are given a refresh every spring, and what better way than a modern pop of color with fun shades perfect for the park, beach, or festival?
Black floral dress, $32; Dainty necklace, $16; 9five limited reds sunglasses, $90.
Sundresses and Kimonos
Prints in all forms are a great way to breathe new life to your wardrobe and welcome spring.
Lace tribal dress, $32; Purple layered necklace set, $18; 9five ombré sunnies, $90.
Soft rayon dress, $32; Dainty necklace, $16; 9five gold and blue shades, $90.
Readers, if you’re in San Diego or the Bay Area, you are in luck. Steps to Steelo is celebrating their first anniversary this Saturday, May 17th at the North Park Festival of Arts (think several stages of live entertainment and both street and fine arts) followed by a trunk show (not to mention mimosas and scones) in Brisbane, CA on Sunday, June 8th.
Cara and I have known each other since kindergarten. In middle school, she was definitely one of the best dressed in our class (note that we had a uniform, but any time we had “free dress” we always took note of her) so I know her interest in fashion sparked early on. I was thrilled for her when I found out she was starting her own business—it seemed like the perfect route—and I wanted to pick her brain about this scary and rewarding experience.
Tell us about your background, what you studied, and what led you to Steps to Steelo.
I’ve always been interested in the arts. I started out painting but wanted to go to school for something that would give me more opportunities so my mom suggested fashion design. I would always dress my aunts and my mom and style them for work and special events. They felt that it would be a good fit for me, and I agreed. In San Francisco, everyone is so free and open when it comes to fashion but San Diego is so much more laid-back and relaxed though still trendy. I find that I constantly have to balance my style with San Diego style and keep that in mind for the mobile boutique.
I studied fashion design at the Art Institute of San Francisco. There I learned how to style, create patterns, produce garments, and really honed in on my designing and visual skills. After graduation, I worked at Francesca’s Collections for about two years. I started out as a key holder then worked my way up to boutique manager. It was there that I discovered my individual style. It also led me to the next chapter in my life: moving to San Diego. After a few months in San Diego, I knew that I was ready move forward on my career path. One day, I came across a fashion truck and my girlfriend said “Cara, this is what you should be doing.” So I got home, Googled fashion trucks, and started my journey.
What did you learn from your search? What drew you to launching your own?
The fashion truck industry has really only blossomed within the last three years. They started in Los Angeles (where the gourmet food truck phenomenon was born) and made their way throughout the country. I always knew that I wanted to open my own boutique, but I didn’t want to worry about overhead and rent and digging myself deeper into debt, so this was the best way for me to get my business going. This way I could build my boutique’s reputation and offer affordable fashion.
What lessons have you learned to get where you are?
- To always stay true to myself
- To not be afraid to fail, and
- To make sure that regardless of the outcome I grow from it.
What lessons have you learned in your first year of business?
One of the biggest is that you need to spend a lot of money before you can actually make money. I struggled for a while and have finally come to a place where I feel like the business is growing; now I feel more confident that I made the right decision. Another is making sure that you know how to be your own support system. Luckily, I have a great family and great friends who were there for me throughout the entire process, but when it comes down to it you have to stay strong and be able to stand on your own two feet. The last is to set goals for myself. If you don’t have the next vision or goal in mind to motivate you to work even harder, then you’re just going to be stagnant.
Not too long ago, you made a move from the Bay Area to San Diego—a notable life change in itself. What lessons have you learned about yourself from it?
The most difficult thing about moving was leaving my family. We have always been really, really close. I’m the first one to move out and not have a set time as to when I’m moving back. They taught me how to be a strong person and gave me the confidence I needed to make such a huge leap. When I first thought about opening up my own business, I was scared to tell them. I had a stable job, I had benefits, and I was able to take care of myself with that position. I was already terrified of the challenges that I was going to face by leaving that stability, and I didn’t want to be reminded by everyone else in my family about how hard it was going to be. But surprisingly, everyone was crazy excited for me, so supportive and ready to back me up 100%. Knowing how proud they are of me pushes me to work even harder to succeed.
That’s a great source of motivation! How did you find balance during that time with a demanding new job, a serious relationship, and everything else a superbly single girl has in her schedule?
One thing about leaving your home, friends and family is that you have time to focus on yourself. There really wasn’t a time where I felt like one thing was weighing more heavily than another, because there weren’t as many distractions. My focus was on my business and building the relationship with my boyfriend. I love that when I need to step away from one or the other, or both, all I have to do is fly up to San Francisco and take a break from everything. That’s the most important thing: knowing when to take a break.
Another great lesson! We describe “superbly single” as someone in a relationship or not who is independent, fierce, strong… How do you stay superbly single?
I love your definition of a “superbly single” woman! To me, she knows what she wants, she’s not afraid to take it, and she’ll make it happen no matter what.
3 favorite places in San Diego?
- El Camino: a restaurant lounge with an awesome patio and great music.
- The Neighborhood of North Park: Great bars and boutiques, and there’s always something to do there. Most places there are “go-to’s”
- Balboa Park: Beautiful museums and gardens. It’s a great stroll when you need to clear your mind.
What is your motto?
My motto has always been “without struggle there is no progress.” I even have it tattooed on my arm as cliché as it may be. I firmly believe in this because we’re always going to face obstacles and things that cause us to lose our way but we have to remember to pick ourselves up and stay moving forward as stronger individuals.
Sounds like a reminder in the lesson you learned about losing money to make money. Good things definitely don’t come easy. What are your goals for Year 2?
My goals are to nail down at least three solid markets a week (right now I have two) and to get the ball rolling on opening a second truck in San Francisco.
With Cara’s drive, I’m sure these will happen in no time.