Fashion in the family

Kelly Leser

PHOTO BY Catherine Beeghly

Kelly Leser loves building her fashion business, iCandy Couture, with the help of her children. Her eldest daughter, Alexandra Coter, just turned 21, and is assistant manager, and Leser’s other daughters, 13 and 11, also pitch in at the store. “A lot of their friends shop in here anyway, and it’s just really been exciting to do something with all three of my kids in the fashion industry,” Leser said during a recent interview. iCandy Couture opened in March in the Chico Mall, where Leser hopes to bring a new option to the local clothing scene. Leser formerly managed the store, and when it came up for sale, she bought it, relying on her 16 years of experience with Nordstrom stores as her guide. Leser, 51, was born and raised in North Hollywood, then moved to Chico for her 10th grade year, graduating from Pleasant Valley High School.

How is your clothing store different from the others?

I would describe it as very fashion-forward. Quality, but at prices that are very affordable. My prices here are about $7.75 to $39.95. I don’t want to gouge my customers. And I want to deliver that same level of customer service that was ingrained in me, working for Nordstrom all those years. I want people to have a wonderful shopping experience here. You don’t want your customers to feel forced. I feel I’ve trained my girls well in creating that experience.

Who are your customers?

I had a woman in her 70s come in here who was going on a cruise, trying to get a wardrobe together, so we will reach all age groups. Moms can come in with their kids, and they can all find things. I do a lot of buying at the L.A. Fashion Market—that’s where you’re going to see a lot of other fashion-forward styles. What I want to create is not only a boutique feel, but also having that downtown atmosphere, right here in the Chico Mall. We’re really catering to Chico women who are fashion-forward.

Have you always been interested in fashion?

When I was a little girl, I probably tortured my cats, trying dresses I made on them, stringing their tails through. I love texture and fabric, and have since a young age. My goal is to try out a few pieces I’ve designed in the store. Some of them are “upcycled”—that’s when you take vintage pieces, not just used clothes, and add a few key pieces to them. I also had two clothing lines. I designed and created children’s dresses. Nordstrom carried them for several years .… My first love is doing the creative end of it.

What’s a common mistake people make shopping for clothing?

Not trying stuff on. Don’t be afraid to take the time to try things on. Then you don’t waste your time and money after you get it home and you don’t like it.

Any plans for the future?

I sew, so I’d like to offer alterations here. And we want to create a way women can create a wish list, so the men in their lives can come in and easily shop for them.