Olivela, which began as an online shopping experience, opens its second brick-and-mortar location in Aspen this month. What differentiates this high-end retailer from so many others in town is its notable philanthropic outreach: remarkably, the company donates a fifth of all proceeds to charitable partners like the Malala Fund and Too Young to Wed.
Founded by Stacey Boyd in 2017, Olivela (pronounced ah-li-VAY-lah) combines style with social consciousness. In addition to having a passion for education and the creative mind of an entrepreneur, Boyd is a mom, a former teacher and school principal, and an advisor to PBS on educational programming. Plus, she serves on the National Council on Teacher Quality.
And now she's taking the fashion world by storm. She chatted with Aspen Sojourner about bringing philanthropy into the luxury market, the new store in Aspen, and why she loves the Aspen Education Foundation.
Aspen Sojourner: Before founding Olivela, you started e-commerce brand Schoola, which donates proceeds from the sale of secondhand clothing to local schools. Couture and education aren’t exactly parallel fields; how did you make that shift?
Stacey Boyd: The truth is, I’m an entrepreneur. I always have been, with the goal of combining social mission with business. Schoola is one example of how that can work with used clothing, and Olivela fulfills that goal with luxury purchases. There seems to be a real opportunity in the world of luxury to incorporate philanthropy. When I realized the cost of my bag could send a girl to school, the idea of doing good with every purchase got me excited.
AS: How have brands responded to this business model?
SB: They've been incredibly supportive. We launched in 2017 with 12 brands. Now we have 300. The model is really simple. We donate 20 percent of our net proceeds to charitable causes. We buy from wholesalers and then sell items to customers, much like a department store. We just decided to prioritize philanthropy.
AS: How do you choose your charity partners?
SB: My passion has always been education, so it's the focus of our charity partnerships. Girls' education is important to me. And an organization like the Aspen Education Foundation is a perfect fit with the programs we support.
AS: Olivela began as an online business. How do brick-and-mortar locations come into play?
SB: Our first store launched in Nantucket this past summer. Aspen will be our second store. It’s a different shopping experience than online. Customers are welcomed into an elegant space that's not super crowded with merchandise. The Aspen store has a curated selection for the Aspen woman, with items you won't see anyplace else in town. It’s an opportunity to look at beautiful things and have a conversation about Olivela, if you would like. The stores allow you not only to shop, but to experience this larger idea of being able to make a choice that matters.
AS: What unique activations are planned for the Aspen location?
SB: The first is that for the month of December, 20 percent of the store proceeds will support the Aspen Education Foundation. I think AEF Executive Director Cynthia Chase is world class, and AEF is doing such important work. A big part of our mission is to support the communities in which we operate.
On the fashion side, just to start, we're hosting trunk shows throughout December with John Hardy, Nina Runsdorf, Kismet by Milka, and more.
AS: Besides their amazing purchases, what else do you want consumers to take away from shopping at Olivela?
SB: The takeaway to me is that we all have to make a choice when we shop. Isn't it incredible to think that every purchase you make can support something like the literacy program of AEF? We live in a world where our choices matter. Choosing to be part of the solution through your actions is very powerful.
AS: What’s next for Olivela?
SB: We will be expanding into other markets, too, but for now, Aspen is our priority. What’s important to me is that we get each store we’re doing right. The Aspen store and the partnership with AEF for us right now is truly our focus. It will be a very dynamic store where you aren’t looking at the same things all season. We want you to feel like every time you walk by, there’s a reason to pop in.
Visit Olivela online or at 427 E. Hyman when the store opens on December 14, 2018.