Nestled in a cozy Brooklyn neighborhood is Lee Lee’s Valise; a favorite among curvy girls. Known for offering figure flattering clothing, the popular boutique opened it’s doors 5 years ago.
Lee Lee’s Valise is owned and operated by entrepreneur turned designer Lisa Dolan and her husband Jim. This month the Dolan’s made history when the show Big Brooklyn Style premiered on TLC. The show shines a light on Lisa’s passion for fashion as she transforms the lives of curvy shoppers daring enough to step foot into her boutique.
To celebrate the show’s launch, Lisa was gracious enough to give us the details on the show that plus size women everywhere are talking about.
What made you decide to open the boutique and cater to plus size women?
Being plus size it’s hard to shop anyway. When you live in a neighborhood that’s filled with restaurants or boutiques and you know that nothing is there for you, you kinda say, “hey I know I’m not the only person who feels this way.” I thought it about a few times over the years but this last time it felt like it was right.
When you buy merchandise for the boutique what types of items are you looking for?
Now that I really make everything in the store it’s different from when I first opened. When I first opened the store I wanted to fill it up with my designs because I had a million designs in my head but we knew that wasn’t feasible to fill a store. Filling it with different designers from all over the world was where I wanted to go. I had different price points. I had a lot of imports from England and Italy. The recession really changed me and smartened me up. I thought I was going to get the best of each plus size designer or I thought they were going to listen to me because I’m not just the buyer, I’m also the customer.
How did the relationship between you and TLC begin?
Since the beginning I’ve had a relationship with TLC because of What Not To Wear. They’ve come to the store so many times and we really worked hard for them. When they said they were coming I got all the rules, all of the information, redid the store. We were always there until 3 o’clock in the morning the night before setting up the store for them. On day one if the girl walked in by herself I wanted her to be familiar with the rules that they already gave her to make it easy for her to see it. If she see’s what works on her body type then she would be a little more comfortable and not feel like she was thrown into the deep end of the pool. Then on Day 2 that’s when Stacy London & Clinton Kelly came and we built a relationship over the years because they would be there the whole day. A few years back is when we had our first meeting to discuss the ideal of doing a show. That had to be 3 years ago. So it’s been on the burner for a while. We were signed in May of last year and this May we’ll be on the air. Hollywood time is like dog years. It takes a little longer because it has to be done right. I think we did it right.
I’m excited to see it!
It’s perfect timing. Everything is lined up. I feel like it’s a gift from God. It’s like God said, “you’re on this path, this is where you’re going to go.” I feel like it’s already destined that this is what I was supposed to do in my life. I help women in the store everyday and now I’m going to help women across the country. Just by them watching the show and maybe picking up something or identifying with one of the customers on the show or relating to them in one way or another and that really makes me feel good. There’s someone at home who may think there’s something wrong with them when it’s just the clothes. Nothing is wrong with them somethings wrong with the clothes that they’ve been trying on or what they’ve been finding or not finding and it’s just like, “Hi, I’m in Brooklyn and I’m telling you that there’s nothing wrong with you,” LOL!
Plus size women come to you for fashion advice but who do you go to?
My husband, LOL! I ask him, “Jim do you like the way this looks, how does this look does this look good from the back?” That’s mainly when I’m getting dressed in the morning. I read every fashion magazine. I’m online. I’m watching the fashion shows when they put them online. I’m always trying to see what’s going on, what’s the hottest trend. Even when I go to the trade shows I’m just looking around to see what’s the hottest color or the biggest trend happening. For instance, when I went to a show in January and they were showing spring, everything was Missoni. Everything was this big Missoni trend that you’re seeing everywhere so when I found fabric that had a Missoni-esque look to it I bought it all up in three colors because I knew that everyone was going to love it and was I right? Yes! It’s on the show. You’ll see them wearing it on the show. I sold out of it in the store but I’ve recut it again so that I can have it available for people watching the show that fall in love with it as well.
What do you want women tuning in to take away from the show?
I want them to feel good about themselves. They’re going to feel the emotions of each character and may identify with them and then find a solution. There’s always going to be a solution. There’s always a solution to something. We always have choices. I want people to feel like there’s an answer. Each person that’s on the show comes looking for something and they find it. Shopping is fun! That’s what I want people to know that shopping is fun and it shouldn’t be this thing where they wait until the last minute to buy a dress for a wedding because they dread going shopping. You see a dress that looks good on you, buy it, put it in your closet, you’re going to wear it.
You seem very passionate and I’m sure the viewers will see how you help your customers.
Yeah, I’m a little crazy, you’ll see. You’ll see how crazy I am on the show. I live and breathe my boutique. I can admit that I’m passionate about clothes and designing. Fashion, it’s a wonderful thing. It makes you walk with your head held high. When you’re in a dress that’s hot, you know you’re walking with your head high when you walk down the block like, “check me out!” If that’s how a dress that fits, in a beautiful print that flatters your figure makes you feel then everyone should have one.
Big Brooklyn Style airs on TLC every Tuesday at 10pm Eastern Time.