Raised in what she describes as a “very Serbian household,” Lepa Boutique owner Sonja Zecevic says her mother taught her to look her best every single day.
“I’ve always loved fashion,” she says. “I never wore the same thing twice in high school and always restyled my outfits to make them look new and different.”
Despite Zecevic’s passion for fashion, she never received any formal training, unless you count a stint in retail at Abercrombie & Fitch during her teenage years. She also grew up with an understanding that men should be responsible for making money, while women should stay home and raise the family.
It didn’t take her long to defy that stereotype.
“I thought I could do both,” she says. “Once all of my kids were in school full-time, I decided it was time to live my dream. I have three girls and a boy, and I want my girls to know that they don’t ever need to rely on anyone else. They can fulfill their dreams on their own.”
For Zecevic, the dream was to open a fashion boutique and so, two years ago, she opened Lepa Boutique in Burr Ridge. But, when the opportunity to
open an outpost in Hinsdale on Washington Street presented itself, she quickly moved across town and closed up shop in Burr Ridge one year later to focus on the Hinsdale location.
Lepa reflects the personal style of its founder and is rooted in sexy elegance—offering everything from workout gear and swimwear to black tie and handbags with a range of price points to suit every budget. Popular brands include Alice & Olivia, Frame, Spiritual Gangster, Fleur du Mal, and more. Zecevic believes in curating a mix of classic closet staples that can be easily mixed and matched and worn forever.
“I don’t do the trendy thing,” she explains. “I don’t believe in buying a $600 or $700 piece that you’ll wear once or twice and then you’re done. Every item in the shop is something I would want in my own closet. I personally stand behind every product that’s featured in the store.”
Twice a year, Zecevic and her team travel to New York to source merchandise for Lepa. They look for pieces no one else is carrying and that you can’t easily find; new, fun, and exciting looks that aren’t particularly traditional and that force shoppers to step outside of their comfort zones; and for upcoming and emerging designers who Lepa can help put on the fashion map in the Midwest.
Zecevic believes so much in touching and feeling the product before introducing it to the boutique that they have upward of 25 appointments over a two-day period each season.
That said, Zecevic does recommend a few staples she believes every woman should have in her closet for fall: a L’Agence blazer, L’Agence denim, and a MISA dress.
“L’Agence is my everything,” Zecevic says. “I love the designer, love her pieces, and love the way they fit every woman. It doesn’t matter if you’re a size zero or a size 12. Styling is my favorite part of the business. I love making my customers feel beautiful in every single thing they put on their bodies. I have clients that are 19 and clients that are 65. They all come for the chic, unique, sexy elegance and for the fashion-forward pieces. And because we’re not pushy.”
For the holidays and for gifting, Zecevic recommends Linda Richards’ fingerless fur hand warmers. They resemble a glove but, because they’re fingerless, are still tech friendly. She’s also bundling up for winter.
“I have a true love for coat season,” Zecevic says. “From furs to puffers, I have all of them. A Nicole Benisti coat is on my wish list this year.”
In keeping with her strong family roots, she spends quite a bit of her rare free time outdoors in Chicago’s unpredictable weather with her husband and children. Her son and two of her daughters are also interested in fashion, but her oldest daughter loves to horseback ride, so they’re often at the barn on the weekend.
“Honestly, I just love to be with my babies,” says Zecevic. “We love to travel, and I also love to watch them play football, cheer, and play soccer. But, right now, Lepa is my other baby.”
This spring, Lepa will host a “huge” trunk show with one of Zecevic’s favorite designers. She’s not yet publicly announcing who it will be, although you might be able to guess, but trust us when we say it’ll be good.
With fashion, it’s always the next season.