Tucked away in a corner of NoDa the Hart Witzen Gallery on 36th Street, to be exact is Elle VJ, a boutique that offers flirty party dresses and classy cocktail attire for the chic Charlotte woman. After a year in business, Elle VJ was honored in December at the Queen City Awards and won the 2010 Boutique of the Year award.
Recently, we checked out the loft-style boutique (now complete with a makeup styling station and offering designs from a local jeweler) and interviewed owner LaVonndra Johnson. Johnson, who has worked in event planning in the past, is a wardrobe stylist and also a partner with the magazine Cinhte.
Creative Loafing: How did you find your niche in this market?
LaVonndra Johnson: I would find myself going to the mall and piecing outfits together. I realized there wasnt really one centralized place that you can go that only caters to party dresses and cocktail dresses, so thats kind of how I got my niche. It's been great; I really like it because Im able to service a particular type of woman. I know that when she comes in, whether she is going to a club event or a social function, she wants something thats going to be comfortable, yet sexy but still showcase the true essence of a lady.
What sets your boutique apart from other locally owned boutiques?
I think mine is different, because of course, there is the factor of personal service. Typically, when the boutique is open, Im always here so Im usually the one that greets you. I think people really like that Im here Im selling the service so Im here providing the service as well, so that definitely makes me unique.
Also, the styling aspect of the business, because typically when someone comes in and looks at something or is interested in something, Ill do a quick style assessment. I'll ask, "What is your style? Are you a colorful type or are you very shy and laid-back?" Or if they pick a dress, Ill say, "Well, what did you think you were going to wear it with, what type of shoes or what type of accessories?"
Often in that conversation, whether they buy all the pieces from me or just the dress, I can put that outfit together for them. When they get home, it's not as complicated and they're not sitting there with 10 pairs of shoes, trying to decide what works and what doesnt.
Do the styles that you're offering here reflect your own personal taste?
They really do. Some of them are more conservative, some of them are a little more bold. Im the type who dresses by how I feel, so I may have a day where Im in somewhat of a quiet mood, so I tone it down. And then I may have that day where Im just flirty and whimsical and pretty much anything goes. Essentially, all the pieces do reflect my style. I dont carry or offer anything that I wouldnt wear myself Im just a firm believer in that. I wont sell a person something that I wouldn't put myself in.
What are some of the trends that are coming up this spring that you're a fan of?
For spring, some things that Im really into and Ill be getting soon are some really high-waisted pants, high-waisted wide legged pants. I think they slim your torso they really make you look a lot smaller in the stomach region as well as if youre a short person like me, they give you a little more length. If you pair it with a great platform, you can definitely add several inches and have the illusion of being taller. Also, sheer tops are really going to be in. Sheer tops with maybe like a camisole or a bra- type top under it those will definitely be in as far as just your regular day-to-day looks.
For your evening looks, Im really seeing and really predicting some nudes, so youll have your camels, your beiges, paired with your blues just something thats very fresh, very clean, very refreshing. I think those are the looks that will probably dominate for spring, and then as we get into summer, things will get a bit more colorful.
136 E. 36th St.