A Chat With Eye Candy Boutique Owner Elsa Fernandez

click to enlarge Elsa Fernandez of Eye Candy Boutique. - Jessica Elizarraras
Jessica Elizarraras
Elsa Fernandez of Eye Candy Boutique.

Locally owned and plus-size fashion for women who don't want to dress like their Tia Carmen are what's in store at Eye Candy Boutique, the city's first temporary pop-up inside inside the Houston Street Garage's first floor (531 Navarro St.).

Hosted by the the Center City Development & Operations Department, the pop-up will run through November 7.

"The City received four proposals from vendors and Eye Candy Boutique was selected based on the marketing plan, product mix, and store concept proposed. We are excited to have a new vendor activate the space and are accepting proposals for future vendors," said Lori Houston, assistant city manager, in an email statement. 

The fabulous woman behind the shop is 31-year-old Elsa Fernandez, a chic dresser who's making sure to choose great fabrics, fits and styles for the 350 or so square-foot shop. Eye Candy Boutique, which carries sizes XL-3X and fun accessories, will host its grand opening launch shindig today from 6 to 8 p.m. with drinks and more. Read more about Fernandez's passion for fashion of all sizes below. 

When did you get into fashion? What's your background in it?
I graduated from Texas State University with a Bachelor's in Fashion Merchandising and from the University of North Texas with a Master's in Merchandising. After almost 10 years of retail experience as a Store Manager and a Visual Merchandising Manager, I knew I either had to really go after my dream of opening my own plus-size boutique or give up on it completely. I chose the former and went all in! I opened the online store in April (during Fiesta, no less lol) participated in the OPEN Downtown Pop-Ups in May for nine days, did Current Couture in June and set up at a couple First Fridays this summer. When I got the email from Cody and the CCDO about this 90-day Downtown opportunity, I knew I couldn't pass it up, so I submitted the proposal as soon as I could. 

What is the most common comment you hear from other plus-size gals about shopping?
Much of the feedback I receive falls into two categories. I have the customer that is excited to see 'cute' or 'trendy' clothes in her size, because she is not used to finding items her size in smaller boutiques, but instead forced to buy from mass market retailers. The second type of customer I have encountered is a bit hesitant to try something out of her fashion wheelhouse, but later realizes that 'rules' of fashion shouldn't hold her back from trying something new! One of my favorite quotes is from Sarah Jessica Parker and she says, ' I believe if you encounter a fashion rule, Break it!'

What sort of style do you adhere to with the shop?
In my everyday life, I love to mix varying styles together (i.e girly dresses with edgy leather jackets or denim and a tee with a nice blazer). I know this mix -and-match mentality really helps when curating the Eye Candy Boutique collection and deciding which items are going to be offered. Keeping different styles (i.e. Boho, Edgy, Girly) in mind while I'm selecting merchandise allows me to cater to customers looking for a cute first date outfit, brunch attire or anything in between. My goal is to offer unique plus size selections that wouldn’t normally be available elsewhere, like a statement kimono or romper that will have heads turning without breaking the bank.

What's the toughest thing to source? What sort of requirements do you have of the garments you choose for ECB?
Accessories are the easiest to source, because I take buying trips to the Dallas Market Center and come back with statement pieces I know my customers cannot live without! The clothing however can be an arduous process. I need to make sure I trust the vendor from which I'm buying and that their sizing charts are accurate. The last thing I want is to order a tee that's supposed to be a 2x, but looks like a medium. Once I find vendors I trust, I feel comfortable ordering merchandise online. At that point, I spend hours going through hundreds of styles, finding fun and unique pieces that I think the San Antonio consumers will love!

What are some regular stores that offer something comparable?
Because I strive to offer clothes that are more trendy than big name specialty plus size stores in town while keeping the prices more reasonable, I would say the merchandise assortment is most comparable to online stores like BooHoo and ASOS. In San Antonio, we have a serious need for unique, affordable and fashionable plus size clothing. There's a market that is being severely underserved and I'm excited to fill that void with Eye Candy Boutique in any way I can! 
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