jessica bovee & curio

 Mackenzie Sawyer photographed by  Jenn Carrillo  for  Curio

Mackenzie Sawyer photographed by Jenn Carrillo for Curio

Nestled between the scenic byway of Corrales and Albuquerque is Curio, the four month old boutique owned by young business owner, Jessica Bovee. At first sight, you might miss it behind cottonwoods and cars--that is if it wasn't for the perfectly peach sign peaking high above her store. And no matter what hour of the day you visit, you're greeted by employees who seem to take from Bovee's own bubbly demeanor, dedication, and insistence that when customers walk into Curio, they need to feel at home. 

Read our interview with Jessica Bovee below and learn how she's setting Curio up to be not just a boutique but a space for womxn to thrive, grow, and build community.

Tell me about yourself!

My name is Jessica, I’m 28, and I grew up in Albuquerque. I went to college in LA at the Art Institute. I interned at Vogue when I was in college and then got a job at the Georgio Armani Headquarters in NY, but when I went out there I just was so miserable! The higher fashion world, the editorial world is not for me. I thought that it was super exclusive, very tone deaf, and it was just a lot of miserable, skinny white people [laughs]. I felt lost and long story short, I started working retail. My husband and I were living in Austin, TX and we moved back here and Curio is kind of a brainchild of both of us. There’s a gap here and I wanted there to be really cool place for people to shop and hang out.

How did you first notice your interest in fashion?

I’ve always been interested in fashion. I grew up here in Albuquerque going to private Catholic schools so I felt very restricted and the only way I could express myself was through my crazy socks or wearing my hair weird, you know? It was a form of self-expression and in a way, even though I knew I was different from a lot of the people I went to school with, I felt really safe having a way to express myself. It’s sorta been a forever thing!

What I’ve always loved about fashion is that it’s a way to express yourself and bring people together. What I dislike is that fashion can be super exclusive. I really wanted people to have a safe space to express themselves—everybody of all sizes.

It's obviously been a process seeing as you’ve moved around a bit and had experience in the “real” fashion industry. Can you tell me more about how those experiences ultimately influenced the creation of Curio?

What I've always loved about fashion is that it’s a way to express yourself and bring people together. What I dislike is that fashion can be super exclusive. I really wanted people to have a safe space to express themselves--everybody of all sizes. It really bothered me that there really is no plus-size market, especially here in Albuquerque so I really wanted to bring that to the table. I also wanted it to be inviting and welcoming. That was one of my biggest problems working in the fashion industry--no matter how many blog posts or articles you read about how everyone loves each other and how nice they are, that’s just not the case. You really have to be of a certain socio-economic status. There are exceptions of course, but I thought that overall it could be something really amazing and I wanted to offer something that is more than just shopping and make it more of a community space.

On Curio’s Instagram account you mentioned holding community events and get-togethers like movie nights etc.. What has the response been like to the possibility of these events?

The response was kind of overwhelming! I got a bunch of DMs and people said they’d love to have a book club or even just a place to watch movies and hang out. That was exciting because it’s what I really always wanted. I don’t want it just to be a boutique, I want it to be a safe space for all women-identifying people. 

How do you curate what comes into the store and what you think people will enjoy?

That’s something that I’m still kind of figuring out. I knew that I wanted to carry as many local brands as possible. I knew I wanted to carry smaller, independent designers, and then I knew that I needed to make money--so we carry brands like Free People and premium denim brands that people really like. And I wanted to be size-inclusive and that’s really hard. I was shocked at how difficult that is to find.

Were you shocked at how little brands there are that are size-inclusive?

Yeah. There really aren’t many. And it’s hard to find lines that are good quality too. We have two lines right now that are plus-size and I want to bring in more but it’s a process of finding brands. Overall though, I wanted to have a clean aesthetic but be fun, fashionable, and since we’re in New Mexico knew I couldn’t get too crazy with it. Now that we’ve been open for a few months I’m learning what our customer wants which has been really interesting. I think what’s also important is listening to your customers—when people say they want more plus size stuff or they want more basics, or work out clothes!

You have to work a lot harder to get taken seriously. Even with the people installing your alarm to your landlords to when people hear you’re opening a business as a woman they’re like “that’s cute” not “wow, that’s really incredible.” I think you have to work a lot harder to earn respect. That’s something I knew before but when you’re really doing it on your own is when you notice it the most.

What have the defining moments for you been in regard to being a business woman in not just the fashion industry but just in the business world overall?

You have to work a lot harder to get taken seriously. Even with the people installing your alarm to your landlords to when people hear you’re opening a business as a woman they’re like “that’s cute” not “wow, that’s really incredible.” I think you have to work a lot harder to earn respect. That’s something I knew before but when you’re really doing it on your own is when you notice it the most. On the flipside, it’s been really awesome to see how excited people are and how many people are reaching out wanting to sell their brand here, or asking about events, you know? And actually all of the local brands we sell are led or made by women which is really cool.

And you have a team working for you and running the store that must have the same dedication that you have to empowering and representing women.

Definitely. Emily, who’s my main employee right now, is super passionate about it. Of course I want to be surrounded by people that are likeminded and so that when people come into the store they can really understand that about us. There’s also nothing worse than going into a store and you’re not greeted or made to feel comfortable so that’s also extremely important to me.

For people who haven’t stopped into Curio yet and for people who visit your online store, what would you like to say to them about what you do and the future of Curio?

That’s a big question! I’d definitely want them to know that we’re working hard on being size-inclusive. Fashion should first and foremost be fun and I think people take it too seriously most of the time. As far as the future, I want to work on Curio being a community space, whether that’s online or in person. I just want it to be an experience!

What women do you currently admire and seek inspo from?

Someone I really admire is Emily Weiss from Into the Gloss and Glossier. I think it’s interesting how she worked her way up but that she’s just consistently remained a nice, welcoming person. You know? She’s always promoting other women’s businesses and I admire that—being a strong businesswoman but not compromising your morals or how you treat other people. I think she’s an incredible role model for that.

I think that it’s important to stay true to your vision. Especially now, with the internet, it’s so easy to doubt and compare yourself to others. But I think staying true to your own vision and not getting discouraged by other people’s success is important. Business in general, whether it’s retail or not, is super cutthroat and it’s crucial to support and empower one another.

What advice do you have for women of all ages who are also pursuing a career in any creative industry?

I think that it’s important to stay true to your vision. Especially now, with the internet, it’s so easy to doubt and compare yourself to others. But I think staying true to your own vision and not getting discouraged by other people’s success is important. Business in general, whether it’s retail or not, is super cutthroat and it’s crucial to support and empower one another. Oh, and being nice! Being nice is a rarity, but don’t let people walk all over you, especially as a woman.