Arlington, VA

A longtime Arlington boutique recently hosted “Chic in Shirlington,” an event for local women to model its clothes after seeing a decline in customers during the pandemic.

Sheyla’s Luxury Boutique has been a part of the Arlington community for 16 years, but over the past few months, Sheyla Voye, owner of the boutique, hasn’t seen many of her customers.

“I have a lot of customers that buy from me, but not even 5% of those people are coming because people are not in the need of clothing,” said Voye. “Because of the pandemic, no one now is going to work. Most of my business was running because people were going to work, events, dinners, galas — and unfortunately because all of that has not been allowed yet, it’s becoming to be extremely challenging and difficult.”

“Chic in Shirlington,” hosted earlier this month, called for women in Arlington to model Sheyla’s clothing in front of the Shirlington fountain.

“Sheyla’s Luxury Boutique seeks models to celebrate as we come safely outside again. We welcome friend groups, sisters, mother/daughter duos or come on your own! Don’t you miss dressing up to go out,” the event listing said.

Models were able to try on clothes, get their hair and makeup done, walk the runway, take pictures and receive a gift certificate to the store.

Kim Honor Matkovsky, a Waverly Hills resident and loyal Sheyla’s customer, said the event brought together women of “all shapes, ages, styles” in a celebration of fashion — and the store.

“Sheyla… is a phenom,” she told ARLnow. “I have been a customer for 16 years and am trying to help her to weather this economic storm.”

“The Boutique is what Loehmann’s used to be: a fun and rewarding treasure hunt for women who wanted quality and style without the price tag,” Matkovsky wrote. “And Sheyla is the special sauce.”

Since the pandemic started, Voye has faced many challenges including moving locations in Shirlington and losing employees.

“I used to be on Campbell Avenue before moving to another building. The [storefront] that I have now is a month-to-month lease, not a permanent lease. Permanent leases are too high for me and I can’t afford it,” said Voye. “I’m working literally by myself. Right now, I can’t afford to have an employee and I’m working seven days and sometimes it is extremely tiring. I have a family and I have little opportunity to spend time with them.”

Although Voye has faced many challenges, she said she refuses to give up.

“It’s been hard, but I’m still going. I’m not willing to quit,” said Voye.

“Sheyla has been knocked down, denied loans, lost her lease, and even ran her business out of a truck for a few years,” Matkovsky noted. “She is dogged by a lack of access to patient, affordable capital and has worked around issues by taking temporary leases on retail space. Sheyla recently paid off a small business loan through a nonprofit lender that charged her 14% interest.”

“It takes a special person to keep fighting,” she said.

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