The Edmond Sun

November 17, 2012

Simply Southwest owner to retire

Lesta Oliver closes doors after 27 years in Edmond

Patty Miller
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — Simply Southwest in Edmond, a contemporary native clothing, accessory and home decor boutique, will close its doors at the end of January. Owner Lesta Oliver is retiring after 27 years of business in Edmond.

Oliver began her love for retail at 21 years of age doing ribbon work on clothing and later modeling with Fullerton Modeling Agency. She then became a buyer for a boutique in Oklahoma City, Chez Elle, and later started her own business selling Native American clothing and jewelry from her home.

“I would have parties in my home and held fashion shows for churches and ladies organizations across the United States to help them raise money,” Oliver said.

A creative business woman with the help of her husband, Glen, now deceased, and her sons, Wade Albright (also deceased), Neil Albright and Kyle Albright, she was able to open three retail stores first in Tulsa, then the Stockyards and Edmond all stocked with clothes that typified her passion — Western and Native American clothing and jewelry.

“My Edmond and Oklahoma City area customers have been really good to us,” Oliver said. “As a specialty store I would usually buy two or three items of the same design. You might say the things I carry are a cross over for my customers who like Native American clothing. I call the lines I carry contemporary native. A lot depends on accessories for the total look including the type of jewelry that is worn with the clothing.”

From long skirts to vests to easy-to-wear knits, many of the items Oliver has can be changed up by adding a belt, boots or beautiful Indian jewelry.

The other two stores have closed, and the 79-year-old Oliver has been running the Edmond store recently with the help of her youngest son, Kyle.

“We came to Edmond in 1988 and opened in downtown Edmond where Sterling’s is now located and moved to our present location five years later,” Oliver said.

It was while she lived in Pawhuska she perfected her ribbon work that she applied to the edge of skirts or on shirts and started selling her clothing items as a hobby.

“What started as a hobby for me just happened at the right time as Southwest designs became really popular not only to wear but also to decorate with in the home,” Oliver said.

The first clothes she sold were handmade by her and later she had help in making the clothing from other ladies in the town.

She added that she has had a lot of help during her journey from friends and customers.

“I have had so much help from so many people,” Oliver said.

The people who have helped her include Shirley Bellmon and George and Donna Nigh.

“Donna told me she and George were going to do something for me,” Oliver said. “George got me on public television showing how to make ribbon shirts. I had orders coming in from all over.”

Many of the clothing items were Osage inspired with geometric patterns blended on the blouses with tucking and ribbon on a Kiowa-styled blouse, Oliver said. “I also made Cherokee tear dresses, which looked kind of like shifts with ribbon work as well as belts.”

Oliver said the Indian tribes had patterns and colors they were noted for using and the Osage, in addition to using geometric designs, used a lot of purple, turquoise, black and red in their color palette.

In addition to fashion shows and seminars at the Cowboy Hall of Fame and other venues, Oliver was the chairwoman for the Red Earth fashion shows for two years and was a regional director, one of 47 in the world, for National Fashion Group based out of New York.

“I was willing to do anything to further the understanding of the Native American culture,” Oliver said.

Oliver’s love for anything Native American comes naturally since she is an Osage descendent and the family ranch, about 20 miles north of Pawhuska, was given in a land allotment to her grandparents and to this day remains in the family.

As for her retiring, she says it is just time.

“I want to spend more time in Pawhuska at the family ranch and volunteering at the Osage Tribal Museum, the oldest in the state. I want to attend tribal dances and take part in the rich culture and heritage of my family. That part of my life has been put on hold because I work.

“When I go home once I get there I don’t want to leave. It is something that is in your blood.”

Oliver says to make Simply Southwest your Christmas gift headquarters.

Fashion markdowns began Nov. 12, Brighton markdowns began Nov. 19, ladies’, children’s, boots, belts and hats and men’s belts, vests and shirts markdown starts Nov. 26; Native American jewelry markdowns begin Dec. 3, pottery, rugs, kachinas, gifts and Pendleton markdowns start Dec. 10, and everything will be on sale beginning Dec. 17.

Simply Southwest is at 1 N. Broadway in downtown Edmond. Store hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.