Gem City Style: Alexandria Ellis of SHE Vintage
A Q&A with the owner and founder of one of downtown's newest boutiques
Jessica Hunter: For those who haven't been there yet, can you describe SHE Vintage?
Alexandria Ellis: SHE Vintage is a lifestyle brand where sustainability meets luxury. My goal is that when you walk in, you're walking into an experience. There's upbeat music playing, music that gives you nostalgia of good times and good vibes. There are candles burning, and the pieces are pleasing to the eye. Everything is placed with intention, every piece has a story, every rack has a scheme. The boutique is carefully curated in order to exemplify the importance of embracing your personal and unique style.
JH: How has the boutique evolved since it began in 2013?
AE: I started SHE Vintage in 2013 as a pet project. It started with me having an overabundance of clothing and accessories that I had thrifted over time. I went from selling online to vending at day parties in Pittsburgh and symposiums in Erie, to selling out my website after an Instagram shout-out from an influencer.
In 2016 I decided to put SHE vintage on the back burner due to life (raising a child, and moving to Indiana to work full time as a visual merchandiser). In 2018, I moved back to Erie and worked a few nail/spa jobs — I am also a licensed cosmetologist. In 2019, I decided that I was done working for other people and that I would revive SHE Vintage for good. So that same year, my partner found a building on Peach St. and I immediately moved in and started doing nails just to make ends meet, but I always knew the boutique would be the end goal. As soon as my clientele picked up — boom — COVID hit and I was forced to shut down. Instead of being upset, I took it as a sign that it was time to pivot and shift. Fast forward through the pandemic, and SHE Vintage has taken off in ways I could not have imagined. To name a few, I have hosted several successful pop-up shop experiences, I personally have partnered with the Erie Downtown Development Corporation as the retail space and experience manager for the Cashier's House, and SHE Vintage has a newly built store in historic Downtown Erie.
JH: What styles are you inspired by?
AE: In terms of vintage, I am inspired by the urban styles of late '70s, '80s and early-to-mid '90s. Think the glamor of Diana Ross and Donna Summer meets Denise Huxtable, meets the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. My signature staples of the boutique are sequins, bold patterns, bright colors, and unorthodox silhouettes, gold jewelry, and unique accessories. When styling, I am inspired by the street styles of New York City, with a mix of the ultra feminine and a splash of Boho. It's like if Sex & the City" and A Different World had a baby.
Being a business owner, entrepreneur, and full-time mama to a 12-year-old and a seven-month-old, my personal style has definitely evolved over the past year. So right now I am inspired by the comfy/chic look. With working, being in the public and attending meetings, I have to look polished and put together, but at the same time I'm always running around with the kids so comfortability is essential. Pinterest is definitely my go-to for inspiration.
JH: During Celebrate Erie, you interacted with Mýa and Ja Rule, how did that come about and what were their impressions of SHE Vintage, etc?
AE: That was so exciting! Honestly, it came about because I was determined to get my business out there! I am a go-getter, and when I put my mind to something, I see it through and accomplish it. Once I heard that the talent was Mýa and Ja Rule, I wanted to somehow get Mýa introduced to my business, being a Black woman-owned business newly located downtown. They say there are only six degrees of separation between everyone in the world, so I knew it wouldn't be too hard to get in contact. So I sent a few emails and calls and requested a meet and greet with Mýa at my store. She wasn't able to accommodate that due to a tight schedule, so I curated a gift bag for her instead as a way to say "Welcome to Erie."
She called when she arrived and I was able to go backstage before her soundcheck and gift everything to her … Mýa is vegan, an animal rights activist, and strictly against animal cruelty. So I made sure that everything I selected was cruelty free which meant absolutely no leather, wool, fur, feathers, or suede … She was super sweet and her dancers loved everything so much that two of them shared their home address to send merch and will endorse SHE Vintage on their tours with Mýa and Justin Bieber.
Now Ja Rule wasn't planned, he was just a casualty of my determination. I waited until after his soundcheck and I was able to take a gift bag back to him, which consisted of a few t-shirts from SHE Vintage and Rabbit 3. He was super cool and so nice and down to earth. It was an amazing opportunity!
JH: In addition to being a storefront, what other services does SHE Vintage provide?
AE: Right now, I have been so heavily focused on getting the store set up and feeling just right so that it looks and feels exactly as I've been manifesting. Beginning in October, we will be offering space to rental services, with a hostess incentive program (think the days of fabulous Tupperware, Avon and Mary Kay parties). We have a beautiful lobby attached to the boutique that's perfect for intimate gatherings such as "sip n slay" events, jewelry parties, pop-ups to introduce your brand, private shopping events, etc.
We also offer personal shopping services and personal styling. Like if there is anything specific you are looking for, whether vintage or not, need styled for an event, need looks pulled for vacation, I will provide that service, just call!
JH: What do you see for the future of fashion in Erie?
AE: I see Erie bouncing back from the fashion drought. I think that with all of the new developments happening and having younger people with more diverse ideas sitting on boards, Erie will begin to thrive again. I have big plans for SHE Vintage as a brand, with several locations offering more than just "vintage." I plan on bringing and sharing my knowledge of retail, management, sourcing, merchandising, and visuals throughout Erie so that the fashion market breathes again.
Jessica Hunter can be found at jessicahunterphotos.com