12 Mar Healthcare Worker Turned Fashion Entrepreneur, Vanessa Wilson Opens Fashion Boutique Estilo Mio
It might be safe to say that our healthcare and frontline workers are some of our most precious members of society, and now more than ever, as they face the highest risk of contracting the Coronavirus, and suffering mental health issues due to extreme conditions, long hours and daily heartaches of losing patients due to complications related to COVID-19. Anyone who works in the healthcare industry, whether it’s directly with patients or other areas, has been affected in one way or another and many are seeking outlets to cope with what they have been facing every day during the last 12 months. One healthcare professional turned to fashion as her outlet. We sat down with Vanessa Wilson of Estilo Mio Boutique to find out how opening a boutique during a pandemic has been her saving grace and even inspired her to find a new mission in life of giving back to the community.
SLTV: It’s nice to finally meet you, Vanessa! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
VW: I’m a Director of Transplants for the Kidney & Liver Program at a known hospital here in San Antonio, which I do full time and I LOVE my job! But out of the blue, I decided to do something related to fashion and started Estilo Mio.
SLTV: That’s a hard left! What inspired you to start your online fashion boutique?
VW: I started working Estilo Mio on September 5th, 2020. It came to me after a work trip to Nashville, TN. It’s a very spunky city and I found it to be so full of life and character. There were so many cute boutiques and I had a blast even though I had gone for work. I would just love all the shops and hadn’t really seen anything like it in San Antonio. What I really loved about the women in Nashville was how creative they were with their style; they weren’t afraid to express themselves through fashion. Even seeing women in their 60’s dressing trendy like the younger women and I loved it! While we were there we tried some of the trends like the wide brim hats and things like that. So, when I came home I decided to do the research and went all in, and learned the ins and outs of retail, and here we are!
Vanessa Wilson and daughter. Photo provided.
SLTV: Loving the hustle, Vanessa! Is it exclusively online or is there a brick and mortar here in town?
VW: It’s all online right now. We’re doing pretty well right now, but eventually would love to open a retail space. I ran into some real estate realness when they informed me that a lot of spaces require your business to be open for 2 years, even though I feel secure enough to guarantee we stay open and I would be able to back up my business because I have my full-time job. It’s been kind of a struggle on that front.
SLTV: That’s interesting, I had never heard of that requirement before, but I suppose it makes sense with all the uncertainty of businesses opening during a pandemic. So, let’s talk about Estilo Mio. How would you describe the style of your boutique?
VW: It’s been tricky finding the style that I wanted for the boutique, because sometimes with my personal style people can be like “What are you wearing?” and others are asking where I got it (laughs). I wanted to create an environment where women would be able to play with their style. And you don’t have to be the same person you were yesterday. It’s okay to be Western today for the Rodeo, then trendy with a wide-brim hat and slacks tomorrow. You don’t have to place yourself in these boundaries, so that’s really what I want, for women to feel free to have fun with fashion. I also use social media for that where I aim towards the younger crowds on Instagram, and show off comfortable, yet cute on Facebook while sharing some of the trends but not overly trendy.
SLTV: That makes perfect sense. I love your upcycled luxury brand pieces. How did you start incorporating those?
VW: That’s actually really interesting to work with. I’m very particular about how to handle the authenticity behind the pieces and making sure we work within the rules and laws of having luxury name brands upcycled into new creations. I found that here in San Antonio, women love this concept! I used to be a little conservative with these styles and ended up falling in love with them! So, I thought “Why not?!”. I did the research and found vendors and makers that made me feel comfortable by providing serial numbers and authenticity for the bags or products that they use to create new bags, bracelets, necklaces, etc. So, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Chanel, Dior, Fendi, Saint Laurent, etc is altered and upcycled from things that would be otherwise discarded. I also find this to be a great way for people who aren’t ready to make a huge investment in luxury brands to have a little piece of something expensive in a more attainable and creative way.
SLTV: We definitely love luxury and the sustainability behind the upcycle process. So, let’s talk about Estilo Mio as a brand. Estilo Mio means “My Style” in Spanish. I can see you embrace your Hispanic heritage. Aside from the name of your company, how else do you want to appeal to your Latinx community?
VW: I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. I feel like, yes, I’m Latina and yes, I’m from San Antonio, but we don’t always have to dress in Fiesta style with the huaraches, etc. It’s ok to embrace your culture and also wear modern, trendy clothes, as well! I love my Mexican American culture, but my style varies and I want Latina women to feel powerful and confident wearing whatever they want even if it’s not traditional. Something else I want to do as a long-term goal is a scholarship foundation for young Latinx students. I went to Fox Tech High School, a small school that doesn’t have the best reputation, here in Downtown San Antonio. Then I went to UT Austin, where I got my degree, then came back to SA to attend UIW. Austin was a different experience and really opened my eyes to new ways of thinking and living. Being the first out of my very large family (my grandmother had 14 children) to go to college and gain degrees in higher education, I really want to create a scholarship for a student to fulfill their education dreams. It’s still in the works, but would love for it to be a fashion-related career, but we still have to work out the details.
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SLTV: That sounds amazing! It’s so inspiring to hear about your experience as the first in your family to attend college and this definitely sounds like the beginning of something wonderful. You’re so multi-faceted! I do want to know more about your work in the healthcare industry. How have things been during this Pandemic?
VW: It’s been very sad, I’ll be honest. I work in transplants and a lot of people have been very afraid that they wouldn’t get their life-saving organs due to the pandemic. Working through those dynamics and staying connected to the patients at dialysis centers and referring partners, making sure that they knew we’re still here for them. What’s been very helpful with my hospital is that we have sister facilities, so we were able to send patients presenting COVID-19 symptoms and positive diagnoses to those hospitals so we can stay functioning with our transplants. Also, many people weren’t coming in for screening and early detection is always best, but out of fear of walking into a hospital, a lot of people weren’t coming in until it was almost or already too late. I don’t think people understand that there’s a domino effect to the healthcare industry when things like this happen. The other side, of course, is seeing fellow healthcare workers so exposed and how they would unfortunately fall ill. I am definitely the COVID Police (laughs). I really am very diligent about wearing masks and taking safety measures, because working in healthcare, we see firsthand the seriousness of this virus.
SLTV: This really does put things into perspective. It’s just about us, it’s taking care of our hardworking healthcare workers who are doing so much to keep up safe and healthy. Thank you for all you do! So, how did you go into the retail business knowing that there’s so much uncertainty during this time?
VW: I’ll be honest. My career has given me the confidence to move forward with my dream of running a fashion boutique. I knew it was going to take more work and that I would be more tired, but I gave myself 4 months for this to take off. I just thought this could be the foundation for something bigger eventually. Now I find that this has helped me in other ways, where I’m now more confident and improved my social skills because I really connect with my customers and we built this community where we’re all friends in such an isolating time.
SLTV: So, what are your hopes for growth during the next year?
VW: I’m ok with a slow and steady growth, but more than anything, I want to build a place where women can come together and cheer each other on. I would hope that in a year we would have something more than just a store, but a shopping lounge or a style lounge, where people can come and have fun. Maybe we could incorporate other elements like a Nail Bar, share a glass of champagne and enjoy each other’s company. I’m a really big fan of girl time!