One fateful question led former marketing executive Alicia Valencia Erb to the racks of vintage treasures and museum-worthy accessory wall that defines VIDA Style, her Old Town consignment shop: “What am I doing with my life?”
In 2021, Erb took a chance and pivoted into unchartered territory after a solo road trip to Maine. “I just always wanted to express myself using fashion. I just always had fun with it. I also love sustainability and the idea of doing my part in preserving our resources. So, I landed on consignments.”
Today, Erb stands in her shop wearing a laser-cut dress festooned with red flowers. She holds a knitted Sézane top—her most recent find. The Parisian brand is one of many featured at VIDA Style. From couture to ready-to-wear, Erb’s taste is both discerning and all-encompassing to ensure there’s a gem to be found for anyone who steps foot in her store.
“I want people to feel relaxed and comfortable. I don’t want you to feel overwhelmed. We intentionally have a lot of extra floor space. I don’t want you to walk in here and feel like, oh my God, this seems like a lot of work,” said Erb. “I want you to just fall into it and be ok and there’s no pressure ever to buy anything. We’re always here to help you get styled in something that you’re comfortable with.”
VIDA Style officially opened its doors in August 2022. The name serves as a nod to Erb’s Peruvian and El Salvadoran heritage, with the Spanish word “vida,” meaning life. It’s about giving a second life to fashion. Erb echoes the sentiment by giving life to handcrafters by lending space in her store to test the market with their creations.
The space itself exudes a bohemian, carefree feel. Fuzzy macrame hangs from the ceiling, and there’s a curated section for men plus spacious fitting rooms to try on your picks. Everything is second-hand right down to the hanger, making good on Erb’s promise to be as sustainable as possible.
She credits Alexandria’s “word of mouth marketing,” and AEDP’s small business support for putting her entrepreneurial dreams in motion. Erb worked with an Alexandria small business counselor to build her business plan. Her counselor “set me straight, and he told me very truthfully yes or no. He’s awesome like that. He’s helped me so much,” said Erb.
Alexandria’s local consignment community also had a (well-accessorized) hand in getting VIDA Style en vogue. “Sharing is caring,” said Erb. Whenever someone comes in and doesn’t find what they’re looking for, Erb will share the locations of neighboring vintage shops in the area. “There’s a handful of us, but we’re all walkable from each other. If you can’t find something here, I’ll always write down other consignment store names so that you can find what you’re looking for.”
Taking chances whether by blouse or in vida is a mantra held true by Erb. To those making the leap to starting a business, her advice is to make sure you have an audience and that you’re solving a problem. “I went in with both feet, but fear can hold you back if you don’t know,” said Erb. “So obviously knowledge is power. The more you know, the more confidently you can walk into something like this.”
VIDA Style is located at 210 N. Lee Street and available online at: www.vidastyleshop.com.
Photos courtesy of VIDA Style.