As a small business owner who works with pregnant women and families, I meet many other small business owners who do the same. We all help each other. They help me spread the word about maternity photography or family photography whether in Seattle, San Francisco or Seattle. For August, I feature Bellefleur, a lingerie shop in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood. I was so impressed with their body-positive mission that I felt they were perfect to be our first feature for this new series. Because as Ellen says “If you don’t … take the time to take care of yourself, it makes it harder to take care of others.”
And did you know, according to Ellen, the woman interviewed here, 25% of her fittings are for pregnant women. This is great to hear.
As I mentioned, this is the start of a new series for us which will feature small business owners I have come to know in my 18 years of doing business. Much of my success is because of working relationships with so many women in the birth community. They are an amazing coven and I hope to introduce to you one a month here on our site.
JENNIFER: Tell me a little bit about you, where you are from, family etc. Also please tell us some of your important life philosophies and values.
ELLEN: My name is Ellen Donbeck. I am a Seattle transplant. I am the manager of Bellefleur Lingerie Boutique. I moved to this lovely city five years ago to be closer to my family. My parents retired out here and my siblings came here from New York to be closer to them. Luckily Bellefleur Lingerie was an easy transition for me to continue my career in the lingerie business. I have over a decade worth of experience in the business. I began my career as a fitter at one of the lingerie world’s most well-known Manhattan boutiques. That environment quickly pushed me to learn everything I could about fit and designers. I continued my career in buying and management, as well as personal styling for individuals in their homes and styling editorial shoots.
JENNIFER: Tell me about your business, how you got started and why you were drawn to this profession?
ELLEN: Some people might think managing a lingerie shop and bra fitting is a pretty standard process. I look at you, I measure you and I tell you what your size is. To me, it’s so much more than that. First off let me begin by saying, I love my job. Yes, I get to be around beautiful lace all day long and that’s wonderful but that isn’t what makes me feel so connected to my work, it’s the customer experience that I am so grateful for. Every day I come into the shop wondering who I will meet today. From the moment that sign turns to OPEN I get the unique opportunity of being a part of their lives, if only for short time. The lingerie boutique is a truly special experience and we are so grateful to have a loyal fan base that appreciates all the wonderful things a beautifully organized store, thoughtful buyers and expert fitters bring to the shopping experience.
There are so many reasons why a woman might wander into a lovely shop like Bellefleur. Whether it’s to find that perfect undergarment for under her clothes or just needing a bit of a pick me up, I see women and men at all different stages of their lives. Some of my favorite moments are watching a woman smile because she can’t help but think she has never felt more beautiful or seeing a gentleman pick up a chemise and say, “I think she would love this.” It has been said that the thrill is in the journey and I think the same applies to the boutique experience. There is something so special about allowing yourself to walk around a store and see what you are naturally drawn to. Whether it’s a bold color or an intriguing design, being present in shop with an expert fitter is the best way to find something that you connect with. It’s an indescribable joy when you find a garment that feels like it was made just for you.
I first got into this industry simply because I thought it would be fun. I never realized how many inspiring women I would meet and how fortunate I would be to be part of such important moments in their lives. It’s more than common for a woman to feel vulnerable and I hope comfortable with me and start opening up in a fitting and tell me a little bit about their lives or what they are going through. I have watched my customers go through body changes, make-ups, breakups, new babies, illness and all the ups and downs that life brings. It is so amazing to me that this is so much more to you than just a place you get your bras. I love when women pop by the shop just to tell me how their date went, to show me the new baby, or to tell me they are feeling great in their new purchases. It brings me so much joy to know that a women’s experience here brought her more than just a bag of lace and silk. These are just a few of the many things that make a little shop like Bellefleur so amazing.
JENNIFER: What do you feel passionate about?
ELLEN: I am passionate about women feeling free and able to express themselves on their own terms. A big part of lingerie is making in a point to allow yourself to feel beautiful even if that is in no lingerie at all. I always try to encourage women to block out any conventional standards of what they think they should be wearing and just wear want they want. I’m not sure who decided we should having “seamless” and “invisible” garments under our clothing, but that is all pretty silly to me. I want to help women feel like themselves. If you don’t have yourself and take the time to take care of yourself, it makes it harder to take care of others. Women are such giving, nurturing and self-sacrificing individuals and taking care of themselves is often put on the back burner. I hope I can help remind them that it is okay to take the time for themselves that they really need.
JENNIFER: Please feel free to add anything else here which could include something that has influenced you in your life, any wisdom that you wish to impart that maybe wasn’t included in the other questions.
ELLEN: From my family, my friends, my boss, and my co-workers I am, quite simply, so incredibly fortunate to have all these strong women in my life.
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All images provided by Bellefleur