Apparel, music, games, lounging and art exhibitions can be found in a new store that is set to open Saturday in Royal Oak.
With the goals of diversity, inclusion and positive vibes, Lé Don Collection, owned by Nigerian Chi Uwazurike, is a space meant for customers and visitors to have a unique fashion experience.
Paintings of the late Chadwick Boseman dressed as his Marvel Universe character “Black Panther,” NBA Lakers’ Kobe Bryant, Nipsey Hussle, Michael Jackson, The Notorious B.I.G. and Aaliyah line the walls of the art section of the store. An open space is left for a painting of the late DJ Slick B, one of Uwazurike’s friends and inspirations, who was killed on Detroit’s west side earlier this year.
Chi Uwazurike, of West Bloomfield, stands in the exhibition space where Black Culturemakers like Nipsey Hustle, Kobe Bryant and Aaliyah paintings are featured in the Le’ Don Collection storefront in downtown Royal Oak, Mich. (Photo: Kimberly P. Mitchell, Detroit Free Press)
The reason Uwazurike set up shop in Royal Oak was because of DJ Slick B. The late DJ told him that the city matched the vibe that Uwazurike wanted to have in his store.
“He taught me how to be yourself and be appreciated for that,” said Uwazurike. “He was himself 24/7. He didn’t do anything, but be himself. So with that being said, everywhere I go, I gave him his roses while he was here. And I thank God for that every day. I’m still giving him his roses while he’s not here because I know legends never die.”
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The grand opening is from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and he chose to not have an official ribbon cutting, but to have an event where people can come and go.
Behind his clothing designs
Uwazurike created clothing designs that have a deep meaning. The circular ropes on the clothing mean “keeping it together” and the lion means that “everybody has a lion in them.” Other clothing reflects the importance of negotiating and being “Booked and Busy,” his trademarked slogan.
Chi Uwazurike, of West Bloomfield, started Le’ Don Collection 10 years ago and is now opening a storefront in downtown Royal Oak, Mich., during the coronavirus pandemic doubling down on his business. Le’ Don Collection is located at 508 S. Washington ave. (Photo: Kimberly P. Mitchell, Detroit Free Press)
He says his business has been able to thrive despite his being a double-minority in the fashion industry. His company’s followers on Instagram support that proposition: There are about 16,400 of them. His personal page has even more with over 54,000 followers. He plans to keep bringing new ideas to the table.
“As a Nigerian business owner, you don’t get what you deserve,” said Uwazurike. “You’re looked at as double-minority. African Americans are considered minority, but they’re not. Nigerians are considered double minority. Nigerian business owners are not really categorized as an African American business owner. They’re not shown a lot of love the same way as African Americans are shown.”
More than things to wear
The store has three sections. The front is meant for fashions. The middle is the art section, where those paintings are displayed and where artists will be able to rent the space for galleries, shows and presentations. The back of the store will hold a lounge area with games.
The store is located at 508 S. Washington St., and sells hoodies, jumpsuits, shirts, jeans, hats for men and women. In addition, Madison & Grayce Candles made of 100% soy wax, are featured in the store.
Not his first clothing brand
Uwazurike and two other friends started YPVL in 2010. He was a student at Wayne State University at the time and decided to switch his major from biology to economics, so that he could understand business better. YPVL ended up becoming a vendor at Detroit’s Summer Jamz three years in a row.
The Lé Don Collection started in 2017, originally called The Don Collection. Uwazurike wanted to compete with French-owned brands, so he changed the name. He then built relationships in China, where his clothing brand is produced. His Thanksgiving and Christmas collections are currently in production.
In July, Uwazurike was walking through Royal Oak with one of his friends, and came across a store that was closing in July. The day that Uwazurike found the store, the landlord met him and showed him the space. They went to the bank and closed the deal within 24 hours.
“I tweeted that it was time for a Lé Don store,” said Uwazurike. “I didn’t know where I was going to go.”
Uwazurike got the keys to the store Aug. 26, and in less than 30 days, the grand opening was set to happen.
“I believe in being productive every day,” said Uwazurike. “I used to be a promoter. I’m a tastemaker, cultural influencer and a dock connector. I curate dope events around the city. At the same time, they knew me as a promoter in the club. After my friend [DJ Slick B] passed, I quit. I left the clubs because part of me was missing.”
So Uwazurike set out to reinvent himself by opening up the Lé Don Collection store and he’s also writing a book that will focus on the principles of life. But this is not his first apparel venture.
When it was time to open the store, he said it was scary to open during the pandemic, but he says his motivation is that he believes in himself. While he follows his instincts, he said that God is the reason that this is all happening for him.
“I pray for my business,” said Uwazurike. “God is leading me. I just think that everything I’m doing is God’s plans. He was leading me because I understood how to be vulnerable. I’ll spend every dime on this if I have to. That’s the thing, you have to want it. So it’s still scary, but I’m up for the task.”
Contact staff writer Chanel Stitt on Twitter: @ByChanelStitt. Become a subscriber.
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