Watch out reality TV – there is a new fashionista on the block! With her new show “Big Brooklyn Style” premiering on TLC this week, Lee Lee Valise owner and designer Lisa Dolan sat down with CURVY to give us a sneak peek into the mind of a designer whose main mission in life is to make women feel great! Mrs. Dolan is the true definition of a Curvy superhero!
CURVY: What are your thoughts regarding plus size fashion?
LISA: There’s not enough of it out there! What I’m trying to do here is give a little something different so that it’s not available anywhere else but here. If you’re trying to build a wardrobe with pieces that are unique to your personality – I want a little section in your closet! But it’s (plus size fashion) inching away – it’s like the little train that could, it’s still moving, it hasn’t stopped! There are a lot of people out there, a lot of supporters, a lot of designers throughout the world that are trying to do their little bit to help – but we need more.
CURVY: Who are your favorite designers?
LISA: It’s all the classics that you look at when you watch the runways. Of course I’m going to look at Paris and Milan and all the designers there. And that’s what stimulates my brain to say “Hey, how can something like that translate into full figured or curvier clothing?” So it’s the classics, the basics, I grew up loving Gucci and recently Catherine Malandrino – it’s quirky, it’s fun, it’s different! You might as well go straight to the top! Since I’ve been designing, I don’t look at other plus size designers because I don’t want to water down what’s out there. I believe that plus size designers should just look at the top and then translate it into their style and we’ll have much more diverse clothing!
CURVY:Now about your clothing line – So “the classics” are your inspiration?
LISA:Yes. I do classic pieces to build your wardrobe – classic fittings, classic styles. I try to keep things (in the store) that in five years – you could still wear. Everyone is worrying about where they are going to spend their money now & it should be (spent) on a quality item that is going to last and not fall apart after three times. And everything is made in the U.S.A. So when you wear something (from her line) you’re keeping a job here in the United States.
CURVY: How did the show come about? Did you seek out TLC or did they find you?
LISA: I have to say that they came and found me! It was with Stacy. The first day we were open, the stylist was here. The second day we were open, Stacy was here. We’ve been open five years and they’ve (TLC) contacted me through “What Not To Wear” – and we’ve been on about twenty times, so we built a relationship over time (with TLC) and three years ago we started talking about having a show. And here we are!
CURVY: What is your favorite part of doing the show? Least favorite?
LISA: (Favorite) I mean, playing Barbie dolls, c’mon! (Laughs) My husband teases me that I play Barbie dolls all day. I don’t have anything bad to say except the hot battery pack!
CURVY: Why did you decide to pursue doing this show now?
LISA: It was just perfect timing. It’s really funny because this month (May), we were open for five years. And it’s the same month that the show is airing! So it’s a milestone of hard work to make it to this point. This is a mark. To have the five years and the show – it just means more because we worked really hard for it.
CURVY: What are you seeking to accomplish by having the show?
LISA: Just reaching more women that will tune into the show and will see someone (like them) – because everyone is plus size on the show, so it’s not like you’re waiting for that one plus size person that’s part of a show. Each episode features three women and hopefully someone can relate to them physically or emotionally. And be able to say “Hey! I could do that, too!” and it gives them some hope that even though the store may not be close to you, but that there is one out there. Or they could learn something. Like maybe I could say “Try this or that” and they could think “Oh, I never thought of that!” I just want to help. I feel like the plus size girl really doesn’t get any help; so when they’re in a store, they’re kinda left on their own. And no one is helping them or giving them styling tips. Shopping should be fun! Not a chore!
CURVY: Do you plan on opening up any more stores?
LISA: I would love to, God willing! Hopefully the show will give us an outlet to move up, move on and try to have a store in major cities where people can visit.
CURVY: How is your store doing in the plus size market?
LISA: I’m in a trendy neighborhood and I don’t have a neon sign that says “plus size” outside – there’s a little frame in the window that says “Catering to Women Sized 10 to 28”. It became more of a “word of mouth” and destination place. People come in all day long in all different sizes. And I have people that come in just for my accessories because they can’t fit into the clothes.
CURVY: What is your advice for plus size shoppers?
LISA: Don’t buy something just because it’s on sale. If it’s on sale, it may be for a reason. You really want to justify when you’re spending your money. And don’t be afraid to buy at full retail, look at it as an investment piece for yourself because you’re going to feel great and hold your head up high and walk differently when you’re wearing it. But you have to love what you’re buying!
You can catch Lisa (And her husband Jim) Tuesdays at 10pm (ET/CT) on TLC with Big Brooklyn Style or you can catch them in person at Lee Lee’s Valise located at: 368 Court Street Brooklyn, NY 11231! Also be sure to follow them on twitter at @LeeLeesValise!