A passion for fashion

WSU almuna Ashley Vailea fufills lifelong dream, opens online clothing boutique



WSU alum Ashley Vailea opened her boutique Vrilla at the end of last year. Although it is an online shop, she held a pop-up event in Neil’s Coffee and Ice Cream on Dec. 18, 2021.

MEGHAN HENRY, Evergreen managing editor

Vrilla Boutique is the love child of WSU alumna Ashley Vailea’s passion for the fashion industry, and lifelong dream of owning her own business. 

Vailea said she’s always loved sharing what she calls “chic fashion” – a mix of casual and elegant styles. Even with the pressure to find a stable income after graduation, her dream was always in the back of her mind. 

I 100% knew the fashion business was waiting for me since I was little,” she said. “My mom told me I was obsessed with playing dress-up with my dolls, and I would always prepare my outfits for the week.” 

Despite the support of her family and friends, Vailea admits she let doubt get in the way of creating Vrilla for quite a while. 

Although I knew in the back of my mind that I wanted to open this boutique, I think more than anything it was fear [that kept me from starting],” she said. “But I realized I’m almost 30, I can’t let fear get in the way of my goals.”

Vailea spent five years focusing on her full-time job before she decided to dip her foot into the industry the way many do: fashion blogging. For those interested in fashion, blogging can be a way to build community, gain experience and learn about the industry before committing to it full-time.

After two years of fashion blogging, Vailea finally opened Vrilla Boutique at the end of 2021.

Vailea said her time at WSU was instrumental in preparing her to pursue her dream. She majored in digital technology, knowing it would help her find a reliable job that would allow her to eventually start Vrilla

My degree has helped in many ways,” she said. “Especially because nowadays, everyone’s selling on e-commerce. I don’t have a brick-and-mortar so it requires a lot of technical knowledge. If you have that technical background, it really helps to get you up and running.”

Vailea said running your own business is a learning process, even with her knowledge of the technical aspects of operating an online boutique. However, the continuing support and advice from her mom helps address those challenges head-on. 

When Vailea was deciding where she wanted to go to school, she said her mom suggested she focus on studying for a career that could pay her bills first, so she could eventually put her focus towards her passion without worrying about money.

I think she had an influence over my decision, but I think it wasn’t her trying to control what I was doing,” she said. “It was her trying to get me to think, and not just improvise, make a quick decision and then regret it later.”

Vailea said one thing that sets Vrilla apart is her desire to connect with people in her physical community— a feat that might seem strange for an online boutique. She has already started to put down roots here in the Palouse.

I’m trying to get more involved with the Pullman community and Moscow community, and I have some [pop-ups] planned for Moscow,” she said. “Over the holidays I made goodie bags for some sorority houses and the customers at Neil’s Coffee and Ice Cream.”

Her desire to build community helps Vailea grow and learn in the fashion industry. She communicates regularly with several fashion bloggers she has met through her work. She said it is a very supportive and helpful network.

I have a group chat with a bunch of bloggers and we just share feedback, share our thoughts on certain pieces and give advice to one another,” she said. 

Vailea’s biggest piece of advice for anyone starting out as a fashion blogger, or business owner, is to do the hard work to stand out

I feel like if you’re going to open up a business, you have to do the work,” she said. “When I started my business, it would have been so nice to have everything answered in one spot. I think anyone would love that. But as a business owner, you need to do the work.”

If someone were to have handed her a list of reliable vendors, or told her how to approach collaborations with other businesses, it would have been an easier start. But, ultimately, she said shortcuts would have likely hurt her business. 

If I were to provide all of the answers to someone, they probably wouldn’t be successful because it’s more than just answers,” Vailea said. “It’s knowing the story behind your business. It’s knowing why you’re opening your business. It’s knowing why you want to work with those vendors.”

Vailea takes pride in her attention to detail, whether it’s the name of her business or the vendors she does business with. She said she does her best to buy from American vendors,  and focuses on the quality of their materials, so that she can provide the best products for her customers even if it costs a little more. 

Her ultimate goal with the boutique is to connect with people through fashion. She wants to help other women dress their best and stand out in their day-to-day lives. As she continues to grow, Vailea said she hopes to eventually make the boutique her full-time job, while designing every piece she sells. 

In the meantime, Vailea said she is excited to connect with the Pullman and Moscow communities through her clothes. 

I’m not a Gucci type designer or anything, but it took a lot of work to get here,” she said. “[My mom] is very proud of me. I think she’s proud of how far I’ve come.”