WESTPORT— After four years on Etsy, a virtual boutique has become a real storefront on State Road.
De’Ja Designs, a women’s clothing and accessories shop that opened on Friday, has stylish, top branded, modern and vintage outfits curated by owner De’Ja DeGrace.
“I want to style more people and help build their self-esteem and confidence,” said DeGrace.
“I know this has been really tough on people for the past year and a half and they feel down, so I just want to help uplift a lot of women,” said the 25-year-old native of New Bedford.
DeGrace’s interest in the world of fashion began as a child. While living on Kempton Street in the West End, she styled her dolls in a variety of swanky outfits. During high school, DeGrace said she always “dress to impress” and was once honored with a “fashionista” award.
“I’ve learned that this is my purpose and my passion,” she said. “One day I dreamed of becoming an entrepreneur and running my own business.”
Become part of the fashion industry
DeGrace studied fashion design at Voc-Tech, but also took part in fashion shows for Fashion Week in New York and assisted with modeling, photography and video shoots.
‘Hocus Pocus 2’: Crew shops for the set at the New Bedford antique store – here’s what they bought
While working as a seamstress at Joseph Abboud Manufacturing Corporation, DeGrace continued her education at Bristol Community College with courses in business administration. She also worked at Hannoush Jewelers as a visual merchandiser.
“I was always driven to want more; determined to do what I believed in and ambitious to be successful, ”she said. “When someone said they liked something or saw something I was wearing … I offered to sell it or get it, duplicate it and sell it.”
DeGrace said she was always “busy” and had a reputation in the SouthCoast community for her drive. “A lot of people know me,” she says. “Or because I didn’t have a shop front, people knew where to find me in the area.”
In 2016 she started “De’Ja Designs” and shortly afterwards her Etsy shop, with the idea of having her own shop window one day still in sight.
10 Tips to Help Small Businesses: help keep an entrepreneurial dream alive
“You kind of come up with a plan and you think it’s going to be nice and smooth, but you know there are twists and turns,” she said. “I am grateful that it happened that way because I learned a lot and also corrected my mistakes.
“I’ve learned to be patient and that things don’t go perfectly or go their way.”
Opening their own shop window
In July 2021, DeGrace’s dream of the store front finally came true when she was handed the keys to her Westport store. Just five minutes from their Dartmouth residence, DeGrace has spent the past two months preparing for the boutique to open.
“I had a lot of help from the family, but for the most part it was me, from seven to midnight every day, to get everything ready.”
De’Ja Designs specializes in women’s clothing specially tailored to all shapes and sizes. DeGrace said she went to trade shows in California and Las Vegas to selectively pick out a range of outfits and styles that would be stretchy and fit all.
“We can all grow together”: New Bedford boutique stocks shelves of products made by women
“No matter what size or what they’re going through, when someone walks into my shop they should automatically be picked up,” DeGrace said. “I want to give women good energy.”
DeGrace is listed as a member of the New Bedford and Fall River Chamber of Commerce and hopes her customers will see her more as a friend and confidante. She would also like to offer virtual or personal styling advice in the near future.
“I want to make women feel good and have a whole experience when they go with me, that they want to come back,” she said.
Standard Times representative, Seth Chitwood, can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @ChitwoodReports. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Standard Times today.