Lingerie and LA: Behind the Lace of Lencería Boutique

Walking into Lencería Boutique (whose name means “home linens and lingerie") is like walking into your own personal boudoir.  If your boudoir has a kind, smart, quick-to-laugh owner who can pick out incredible lingerie for you and make you feel insanely comfortable and sexy.

As I chat with boutique owner, Juliana Correa, over lattes that she so graciously made for us, we crack up literally just talking about life. Smooth music mix plays lightly in the background as we sip on our coffee. I know I’ve made a new friend, as we chat about our cats' odd behavior and how much we unconditionally love them anyway.

She is so fun to interview because she is always so interested in whomever she’s speaking with. It's rare: she asked me just as many questions as I asked her!

We sit on the luscious couches towards the back of her second store on Melrose (she moved from her first Sunset location just a few months ago).

As our giggles wane,

B: So, where are you from?

J: I’m from Colombia originally, but I moved to Miami when I was very young…I was like 12 years old. From Miami to New York. New York to Arizona, where I met my husband, and that’s how I moved to LA…my husband got a job here.

B: [Thinking, unsuccessfully, of ways to portray her incredible Colombian accent on my blog…] What was it that really brought you here?

J: The real reason was my husband got a job here *laughs.* We were in business school and he was looking for a job in LA and I was looking for a job in New York. He got his job in LA right away, so we moved here. And we thought it would be just a two- or three-year plan, but I think now it’s for the long run.

B: What’s the deciding factor on that?

J: I think the business. I’m not sure if I could have done what I’m doing here in NY…I think the store is made for LA. Also just work and friends and LA has been a lot better than we were expecting.

B: Did LA inspire your store?

J: Yes, I had only been to LA once. I was very, very young. And when I did the business plan for this boutique, I made the store in LA –very LA specific. And I had, in my research, put this store in the business plan two doors down from where I was in my first location!

B: Oh wow!

[While receiving her MBA, Juliana made plans to create this store in Los Angeles. Years later, when she was ready to actualize her dream plan from business school, she realized that she signed a lease for a location just two doors down from where she had hypothetically placed it in her business plan.]

J: The reason I made it in LA, even though I had not really been to LA, is that all the brands that I started with were not very well known in LA. Only in Miami and NY, which were the only two other cities I knew in the US. I wanted to bring this lifestyle and look to LA.

B: So you’re the pioneer for the brands you carry – that’s incredible.

J: A lot of these brands, yes. Nobody else had them and now a lot of people have them in LA. They’re brands that people seek out and know of them by the time they get here. 

B: I think its very cool that you have the whole “try on” experience [you can try on lingerie with your partner present] – a lot of your store is dedicated to being able to try on the lingerie. Is that intentional?

J: Yes, it’s a little nerve wracking to try on such intimate things and I think one of my biggest issues whenever I go lingerie shopping or swimwear shopping is this: the idea of like, too many people passing through or just not feeling comfortable. Also there is a sense of vulnerability, so I want to make it as comfortable as possible for the person who is in there. And if they want my help they have it and if they don’t, they don’t need me there.

B: That’s how I felt about the store – when we came you were so professional and kind. You have this chi about you – you’re here to support me. You were encouraging and giving suggestions and it was really helpful.

J: I always feel out the person. I really dislike when I feel like I’m being pushed with something that's not for me, and that’s what I try to be the most mindful about. That’s why there’s so much space and there’s a bell if you want to ring it [in the dressing room].

B: Why did you decide to open up a lingerie boutique, or what pointed you in that direction?

J: In a weird way, it just happened. Like when you ask your married friends “How do you know?” and you’re like “you just know!” That’s so annoying, I know. *Laughs* I did the business plan for a project and we needed to do an international component so I was like “Okay, what do I know? I know Colombia and they have a great textile industry,” so I did that.

B: That’s very strategic.

J: Ya and I thought it would be an easy business plan and instead it took me forever to do it and I was just pulling the all-nighters – everything I was trying to avoid by doing a business plan for this store! *Laughs* Then when we moved here it stayed in the back of my mind. The mature thing to do would have been to get a job that pays me money while we’re starting out, but it just stayed in the back of my mind when we were doing the whole move to LA, so I was like I have to do it.

B: So when he got the job in LA, were you just like “This is what I’m going to do!"?

J: Initially I thought, let me work for a couple of years and then I’ll do this. And then there was also the “If I work for a couple years, I’ll get comfortable and I’ll never do it.” So I just kind of threw myself at it and Joe [her husband] was really supportive so that helped a lot. I keep going because of the one-on-one that I can only get through this store: with the customer, which is great, and there are the people that you meet that own the brands. They are ridiculous… so talented and so driven.

B: You get to be in that creative world with them.

J: For example that crocheted top *points to swimsuit* it’s a brand called Entreaguas. The founder hires women who are coming out of the jail system so they have something in their résumé that’s recent. It’s a 26 year-old girl and she started it when she was 22 or 23 and still in school.  So you get that from a lot of the brands here: they all have that one passion. They’re really supportive of a cause.

B: I notice that you also have 31 Bits, and that’s a cause driven brand.

J: All the brands here I know through family or friends or just through being Colombian, and other brands you have to do research on, but they all have something. Some sort of cause that they’re supporting.

B: Oh I love that even more. So walk me through the search…what was the first thing that you did after you decided to open the store?

J: I was looking from Santa Monica to Los Feliz and everything in between! First of all, I didn’t know LA so I did a lot of driving and getting out and walking through the streets and getting a feel for people. I knew the kind of neighborhood I needed to be in. I tried getting a real estate agent but no one was willing to work within the square footage I needed because I needed too small of a space. So then I just drove around and found for-lease signs -- it took me like three months the first time around to find a place. Everyday. Just driving and looking.

B: It’s almost like apartment hunting!

J: Yes! I need to make sure the neighbors are not horrible *laughs* and in a good area and you want an area that’s like, up and coming enough. It wouldn’t make sense, something that’s too established. If people are walking from the very well-known stores to the little boutique it wouldn't make sense…it needs to be around people who are interested in something unique and that usually won’t happen in the very established areas.

B: How was the launch party for your second store?

J: That party was really nice. Before I moved out of Sunset I had a little party with 30 of the regular customers…and nothing can beat that. It was so nice. [Lencería has been open for three years now] Then I had the launch party here and there were so many more people who came, so that was really neat. I was also serving ---do you know Aguardiente? It’s a Columbian drink...probably 60% alcohol.

B: *Laughing* so you don’t really remember that opening night…

J: Well I don’t think anyone did! It was the clean up process that was an issue.

B: So you mentioned that you loved being able to work one on one with guests and with the designers – if you had to put your finger on the one thing you love what would it be?

J: It would be that, I know it would. You do need that deep conversation with someone, to learn from other people, and that’s where I get it. I don’t have immediate colleagues; my colleagues are the designers and the people that are selling the brands.

B: That’s not something you see everyday and it's great that you have the opportunity to do that and feel the way you do.

J: Right, I’ve always known I liked customer service but learning that it could be something that you could have a career out of was crazy. When I was little I would ask my mom “What am I good at?” Everyone has a talent that their parents can pinpoint and mine was like “You’re really nice!” *laughs* Mom! She’s like, “You’re really good with people!” and I was thinking, “That’s not a talent!”  

B: You know what, you’ve driven in LA—it’s a talent, believe me!

J: I guess what makes me really happy is that you can have a career out of just being nice!

B: So what does a day look like for you? When does it start and end?

J: A lot of my calls are to Columbia or the East Coast so I’m usually up at like 6:30AM on Skype doing the calls. I get here between 11 and 12 and then do what you would see every store owner do, which is the normal clean up and everything. I spend the rest of the day seeing customers, doing our social media, learning about new brands. Just kind of figuring out the rest of the seasons. I guess it depends if it’s buying season, then I’m on Excel trying to figure out the next six months' buys and shipments and trends. I pay less attentions to the trends that I see in a magazine than looking back to see what people bought. I chit chat a lot in the fitting room and see “Oh this person prefers this type of bra,” and I have all those notes to remind myself to buy what people are actually looking for. “Do they prefer underwire or no?”

B: So you’re like the little spy!

J: And its really neat to know the designers, that’s what’s great about working with smaller brands… I can tell them people really want the straps to criss-cross. And then they come out with straps that criss-cross!




B: Is there something that you’re working on right now?

J: Christmas and shopping season is coming up and then Valentine’s. So I’ve finished buying all the lingerie that will come in through February. Every year I’ve had a charity that I focus on, so this December we’re working together on educating people on the charity. So it’s not just like, “Here’s some cash!” I work with the charity to see if they can come to the holiday party and will meet people so they see where their money is going.

B: What do you think is LA’s best feature?

J: You know I think I came in with not a positive image of it. And I was proven wrong so quickly. You just come in thinking everyone will be superficial and nice…but superficial. Then immediately you meet some of the smartest people you’ve ever met. But they enjoy their time off. So it’s the best combination between Miami and NY: where you have the smartest and brightest who work their butts off, but then you have the Miami where it’s like, "When I got to the beach, I go to relax -- I don’t go to do work." And that's a great mix.

You can also never pinpoint the style of LA…anywhere else I’ve been I think people have a specific style. And LA doesn’t have that, and that’s so fantastic. And the food here is ridiculous. It’s better than anywhere I’ve lived. Even though I’ve traveled so much, people here do it right and it’s easy to be healthy. LA also embraces individuality. People get excited about brands they’ve never heard of, whereas in other places you have to prove what it’s worth.

I think LA just kind of sees it, likes it, and goes for it.

B: Would you say you have a secret spot in the city?

J: It always changes. Right now I really love Euro Caffé. I was walking on Beverly and ran into this little café that’s just right out of Italy. It has two Italian guys talking outside about the neighborhood, and people come in and high five each other. It’s crazy. It’s like you’re in Italy. They have the best chocolate croissants because they’re made with Nutella. Its probably good you haven’t found this place because I have to have one or two croissants a week!

B: I'm really excited to check out that spot! So what was the day that you knew you were an Angeleno?

J: I went to NY with my husband for a wedding and while I was there, I went a little crazy. I needed to move back. I couldn’t handle living in LA. I missed my friends…I missed NY. Finally we got home and he was like “Let’s start setting up so we can go back to NY. We’ve been here for a while and it's been for me so we can start moving back and do it for you.” But immediately I was like, “Oh my goodness I’m going to miss my friends! What am I going to do without the weather?!” So I realized that if I didn’t have it [LA] I would really miss it. Then I realized okay, I can do this. I can sign up and be here. And who knows we’ll maybe move but while I’m here, I’m here.

Lencería Boutique is located at 7619 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90046.

Skid Row & The Book Club

Teresa came into my office every evening after she ate dinner in the kitchen and before she went back in to volunteer.

She was living on the women’s floor at the mission I worked at, and was one of the most kind, confident “everything would be fine and is fine” people I’ve ever met.

She would tell me about these moments where she was volunteering at places around Skid Row (even though she lived there) and would meet volunteers that would invite her to things. She had seen this play with a volunteer that had given her a ticket because she was so kind to them, and even had been invited to dance classes, which of course she went to. Girl can move.  She also went to this seminar about relationships led by a married couple that were also psychiatrists.

They had written a book called “How We Love.

She knew that I was newly-engaged at the time and went into the key points of the seminar – the key moments that really touched her. We sat there, long after I was supposed to go home for the night, and cried and talked and she shared their website with me. She said that I had to buy the book – if she had it she would let me borrow it.

I got it, and man was that book a tough read. It tore into every experience I’d ever had and ripped up my usual fatalistic perspective. It broke down the types of people who have specific types of childhoods and how that relates to their relationships with their significant others.

It was exactly the part of my life that I had left unchecked, and exactly the part that I needed to get stirred up like sand in a sifter. Every couple of days, she would come back in and check on how my reading was going.

“Hey bayby didja get that book?”

Ooooooooh Lord, they gotchya this week didn’t they!”

She came every Tuesday and Thursday and would ask me what I learned. We would go over what we were feeling and thinking about the stories. She shared her past. I shared mine. It was our little book club. 

Jill & The Great Nation of LA

“Strangers will say ‘Smile! It’s not that bad!’ Literally, that’s what I get as a cat call. That’s my pick up line.” Jill laughs as she leans on her “spot” as she calls it: a ledge in her kitchen. She’s concerned about looking too serious in the hundreds of pictures I’m incessantly snapping. I’ve known Jill for 10 years, so taking photos of her in her antique-like apartment (a charming world with servant doors in the kitchen--literally) is pretty natural. But today we are trying to act natural, which is not the easiest task with someone you’ve grown laugh lines with for a decade.

Jill’s interview is not only about her life in LA, but how she ultimately ended up here and the challenges she faced of starting a life on her own. You should especially keep reading if you’re someone that might be considering taking a new step out of your comfort zone. This girl’s been there.

“That’s my favorite view. I love that window.” She comments as I turn around and start drinking in the afternoon sun with my lens. We sit down to chat, and as she breaks out her hummus and veggies. “Can you hear me eating?” she laughs as I switch on the voice recorder.

Jill is one of those people who you know is a bad ass but is one of the most considerate and kind people. She works in legal offices and her knack for professionalism is sometimes scary, and I always learn a thing or two from her.

It’s not a hot day, but it’s always warm if the sun is out in her apartment. She has no air conditioning (I wasn’t kidding about the servant door in her kitchen, that’s the era of this building) and large windows, but the tall, open-beam ceilings help some of the heat to rise.

We sip on our iced teas and chat.

A favorite feature of her apartment: an original refrigerator she now uses as a cabinet. 

A favorite feature of her apartment: an original refrigerator she now uses as a cabinet. 

B: When were you born?

J: April 25 1990…just made it into the ‘90s so everyone can make fun of you. If you’re born in ‘89 no one makes fun of you! “Wait you’re 24? What year were you born? 1990? Wow you’re young!” [She hears this all the time].

B: When did you move to LA & Why?

J: I moved here almost exactly two years ago for work. They hired me part-time and the day they made me full-time and said they were going to keep me I moved out here. So before that, I was commuting from Orange County. I was in the car about 5 hours a day. I ended up moving here, across the street from my job and therefore walking to work everyday.

B: When did you know you wanted to live here in this goldmine of charm?

J: It was definitely hard finding a place, but I found it on Westside Rentals the second I signed up. And I literally worked 100 feet from here so I walked over looked at a unit upstairs. I was like I can’t decide…this place is really cute but its also really old.

There were like two foot sections of paint peeling off the wall. I was on the phone with my mom and she was like “well what’s wrong with it?” I said it’s just ooooolllld and the paint…and she said, “The paint can be fixed. What do you like about it?” And I was like well there are wood beams, a cute fireplace, original wood floors and doors and everything. But I didn’t end up getting that unit. I was so upset. I had to commute for another month or two and wait for another unit in this building.

And I got it. And this one is ten times better than the one upstairs and even cuter and even more charming. I love it, I absolutely love it here—it feels like home. Even in the last like two years it has gotten more homey and decorated and I like that feeling. You should feel that way about where you live.

B: So what’s this neighborhood called?

J: I live in Westwood, and specifically I’m in Westwood Village. [She goes on to describe where Westwood begins and ends; she knows her stuff].

B: Is there a different hood – a dream hood – that you’d like to live in?

J: I really love all of the West Side. I’d want to stay in Westwood or Brentwood or Santa Monica. I feel like you get some neighborhood vibe to it. It’s definitely pricey – it’s very pricey living in Westwood. I definitely lucked out. I’m trying to stay put as long as possible. I must have the cheapest apartment in a mile radius…that isn’t like 5 students in one room. I do like Culver City and Palms. But pretty much this area, it’s my new hood. I don’t really want to leave.

B: What’s your favorite thing about LA?

J: Probably variety. You can go to the beach, you can go for a hike, you can go to Malibu, you can go to downtown.  There are a million restaurants to try, and coffee shops. I feel like you don’t get that everywhere you go except a big city. There’s also a ton of attention on a big city: you can read 100 blogs and forums on the best restaurants and never run out of things to try. But I do like that you can fly down Wilshire and be at the beach. Head up PCH and just drive or hike or go to museums. I think its just he fact that there’s so much to do. Which is why everyone wants to live in a city right?

*She takes a sip of her tea and snacks on her jicama.

B: Would you say you have a love/hate relationship with LA in any way?

J: I think the things I hate about it are the things that people traditionally hate about LA or a big city. Hate traffic. Everyone hates traffic. I live smack dab in the middle of “Carmegeddon.” Traffic is definitely a problem. It sometimes takes me an hour to get home from work. I live 2.5 miles away from the office and I don’t have to get on a freeway. I think I hit like 5 stoplights and that’s it. It’s always crowded.

Parking. Everyone hates parking. I’m really bad at reading parking signs. I got three parking tickets within two months of living here. Also I don’t have any specific opinions on movies or music, and the entertainment industry is why everyone comes to LA and why everyone is pretty much here. That’s not a world that interests me, but everyone that’s here is in it. I’m just here to work and be, not anything else.

B: Has your opinion changed of LA since you’ve moved here?

J: I grew up in Orange County, and I was never up here. I came to a lot of Dodger games, so I’d just drive up though Downtown and I never came to Santa Monica or museums. I just shot through Downtown to get to Dodger Stadium and I hated it.

I always thought LA was gross and dirty and I’d never want to live here. And I ended up here and I love it. I really spent a lot of time thinking LA was this horrible disjointed city that had way too many “areas” but I didn’t really know that Century City and Santa Monica and Malibu and the Valley and all those places existed. I just pictured the Walk of Fame and Downtown. Now I wouldn’t mind working in Downtown, I think that would be cool.

Jill's extensive Dodger Bobble head collection. 

Jill's extensive Dodger Bobble head collection. 

B: What’s your secret spot?

J: There’s this beach in Malibu that I always go to. I’d get up on a Saturday and at like 8, grab a Starbucks and just drive. And you can get there in no time cause nobody is on PCH. I don’t even know what beach it is…it’s just a little stretch of sand over the hill of Pepperdine. So it’s kind of far, like 15 miles. I just pull over and I’m in my own little beach. I go there all the time. I take friends there. It’s kind of far but you don’t have t o pay for parking you don’t have to fight crowds. I’d go get my tan on, stay for a couple hours, and then leave without any traffic.

B: Do you still go or not so much?

J: I went 4-6 weeks ago and during the summer it’s really nice. And my apartment is horribly hot so I would just get up and go. I do like to hike too, and there’s a trail in Santa Monica that was the hardest hike I’d ever done but it was the most beautiful view I’d ever seen. I think its called Los Liones? Seven miles round trip and super steep. I almost died. It’s so picturesque I can’t believe this place exists, but it’s very hard to get to. I guess Malibu’s my spot cause its just quiet up there and you can just go be on your own and explore and its not far and its pretty.

Diddy Riese is very close too. I can go grab a couple cookies for like 50 cents.

B: I know it’s hard to pick a “spot” since we have the same feeling of, “let’s go somewhere new every time we go eat!”

J: Well there are thousands of places around here! I’ve been to every restaurant in Westwood Village and there’s so many more things opening. It’s nice cause you can just walk and it’s block after block of restaurants.

B: So what actually keeps you here? Why do you actually stay?

J: Well I have friends out here now, but at first I only had like one or two so I was nervous to move out here. I wanted a good job and I felt like I could get that out here. And I lucked out and got a fantastic one right out of college. I always thought if I want a good job at a law firm I had to move somewhere else [out of Orange County].

I wasn’t afraid to just move out on my own…I’m not saying it wasn’t hard, because it was and I didn’t know anyone and I would just go to work and go home. I was like, “Is this what it’s supposed to be? Am I supposed to be more fulfilled than this?” because I think not like I had some fantastic career, but I had a good job. But it was hard because it just takes time, and I met good people through work and friends. It just takes time.

Now I feel like I’m home and I have my own life out here. Now I’m in it and I’ve been here a couple years. This is life…I don’t feel like I’m still stuck in the figuring-it-out stage.

I think that this is a really good place to be when you’re young. I don’t know if I’ll live here forever, but for a while. I don’t want to be back in Orange County. I feel like there’s a lot more going on here. More potential. So whether I want to change jobs or meet new people I feel like there’s a lot more variety. It’s about getting out of your comfort zone.

B: I’m glad you said that, cause that’s the reason I write –get people out of their comfort zones. Your life’s trajectory will look much different if you do.

J: Took me a while…took me a good year to feel acclimated. That this was home and I knew my spots and I knew where I was going. It’s scary. I knew what I wanted, but I knew it would be scary, but I just had to figure it out.

B: So what do you do?

J: Most people have these more creative careers and ideas of their career and I was like “I want to work in an office!” [When I moved out here] I did HR and loved it and put me on the career path that I wanted, even though I didn’t know any of that stuff when I started. But my potential was limited there. So I went to a very small firm of five attorneys and love the people. I became friends with the female attorneys in the office, and I don’t dread going to work…and that’s huge. I’m their office manager but I miss doing HR work. I’m stuck in that confusing career stage that a lot of people are at our age.

B: Well you got yourself to this point so I think it’s safe to say you can trust your intuition moving forward.

It can be a struggle living out here for sure. That’s why everyone has roommates. It’s really impressive I live on my own! *laughs I don’t have ac, laundry, parking. It’s not easy. And everything just keeps going up. Unfortunately that does play a factor in what your career decisions are. As much as I may be personally happy, if I can’t afford my bills then I gotta do something else. Which is sad, but it is just the way it is.

You said you didn’t see yourself here forever, where would you want to go next? Where are you going next?

Well, I think I’ll probably always live in Southern California, just to be in close proximity to family and friends. I have dream ambitions of moving to London, and I don’t see myself in any other part of the country. I don’t think I’m New York, I don’t think I’m Pacific Northwest, not South…I’m California all the way. I think realistically ill always be a California person. Specifically Southern California. We all know that’s better! *laughs

How do you know you’re an Angelino?

Oh God, maybe road rage. My road rage is embarrassing. I really only do it when I’m by myself though, I can’t do it in front of other people cause I’m ashamed! Ya, I just think of traffic and parking. Parking becasue you always have to keep a few bucks on hand since you know it’s only going to be valet. That’s pretty LA.

Or when I have to go 8 miles and leave an hour before I have to be there and I’m still late. “Sorry, I started getting ready for dinner at 3 o’clock…I did my best!”

From her porch, you can see the building where she first worked when she came to LA. 

From her porch, you can see the building where she first worked when she came to LA.