In 2003, co-owners Stephanie Sherman and Carrie Arrouet opened Lela boutique and labeled Milwaukee’s Third Ward the fashion district. Now with over a dozen national and independent retailers, that is exactly what it has become. Lela remains a standout with its eclectic mix of new and vintage apparel and accessories.
Lela, 321 N. Broadway, caters to customers of all ages and styles. Their core customer is 25 -45-years-old and enjoys unique, fashion forward designs.
Lela offers designer and vintage consignment items allowing sellers the opportunity for in-store discounts. When Lela first opened their inventory was about 80 percent consignment, but now Lela has moved to a 50-50 model of new and consignment clothing and accessories.
Lela also represents independent designers such as Milwaukee’s own, Shanel Rieger, who has made her mark with intricate and luxurious corsets. Other national designers include: Joy Han/Voom, Mara Hoffman, Miss Me, C Couture, Eva Franco and Vika Brown.
Now with big chain stores like Anthropologie and other local retailers such as Lorena Sarbou, business is up.
Sherman explains, “We see people from the suburbs and Chicago coming to the city more often because there is more selection – the Third Ward has become a destination spot, whereas people might not have otherwise gone out of their way for one store.”
For Sherman, owning her own business was always a dream. She met Arrouet through Marquette University’s Future Milwaukee program and she too always wanted a business, but did not know what type. Together they realized that Milwaukee did not have a lot of independent retailers and so began the concept for Lela.
Sherman holds a Masters in public policy and urban planning and led a business association before opening Lela. Arrouet worked for a nonprofit and handled volunteer recruitment and marketing.
“These experiences helped us develop necessary skills to be successful entrepreneurs. We learned how to wear many hats and work with limited resources,” Sherman admits.
Lela will host its annual brown bag sale on August 15 where everything in the store is half off and present a fashion show on September 12. The show emulates fashion week in New York and will showcase menswear from Milwaukee’s boutique Alla Reed, new designs from Shanel Rieger and vintage apparel.
For more information, including consignment policies visit: lelaboutique.com