De’Ja Designs, a women’s apparel and accessories shop that opened on Friday, offers stylish, top brand, “fits-all” modern and vintage outfits curated by owner De’Ja DeGrace.
“I want to style more people and help to boost up their self-esteem and their confidence,” DeGrace said.
“I know this last year and a half has been very tough on people, and they’ve been feeling low, so I just want to help uplift a lot of women,” the 25-year-old New Bedford native said.
DeGrace’s interest in the fashion world started when she was a kid. While living in the West End on Kempton Street, she would style her dolls in a variety of swanky outfits. During high school, DeGrace said she would always “dress to impress” and was once honored with a “fashionista” award.
“I learned that this was what I’m destined for and was my passion,” she said. “I one day dreamed of being an entrepreneur and running my own business.”
Becoming part of the fashion industry
DeGrace majored in fashion design at Voc-Tech, while also participating in fashion shows for Fashion Week in New York and assisting on modeling, photography and video shoots.
While working at Joseph Abboud Manufacturing Corporation as a seamstress, DeGrace continued her education at Bristol Community College taking business management courses. She also worked at Hannoush Jewelers as a visual merchandiser.
“I was always driven to want more; determined to go after what I believed in and ambitious to succeed,” she said. “If somebody said they liked something or saw something that I had on…I was offering to sell it or get it, duplicate it and sell it.”
DeGrace said she was always “hustlin’ and bustling” and had a reputation within the SouthCoast community for her drive. “A lot of people have been familiar with me,” she said. “Or because I didn’t have a storefront, people knew where they could find me around the area.”
In 2016, she launched “De’Ja Designs” and soon after her Etsy store, with the idea of one day owning her own storefront still in sight.
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“You do kind of map out a plan and think that it’s going to go A-B-C, nice and smooth, but you know there’s twists and turns in between,” she said. “I’m grateful that it happened this way because I’ve learned a lot and corrected my mistakes as well.
“I’ve learned to have patience and that things aren’t going to go perfectly or go your way.”
Launching her own storefront
Finally, in July 2021, DeGrace’s storefront dream became a reality when she was handed the keys to her Westport shop. Only five minutes from her Dartmouth residence, DeGrace has spent the last two months preparing for the boutique’s grand opening.
“I had a lot of family help but, for the most part, it was me every day from seven to midnight getting it ready.”
De’Ja Designs specializes in women’s clothing specifically geared to all shapes and sizes. DeGrace said she went to trade shows in California and Las Vegas to selectively pick a bunch of outfits and styles that are stretchy and fit all.
“No matter what size, or what they’re going through, when somebody comes to my shop they should automatically be already uplifted,” DeGrace said. “I want to give good energy to women.”
Listed as a member with chamber of commerce for both New Bedford and Fall River, DeGrace said she hopes that her customers will see her more as a friend and confidant. She wants to offer virtual or in-person styling consultations in the near future, too.
“I want to give women a good feeling and a whole experience when they leave with me that it makes them want to come back,” she said.
Standard-Times staff writer 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.