By Kimani Hamilton
A passion for fashion, a dream, and determination was all this young designer, Daeja Richardson had when she was growing up.
“At the age of 14, I started my own fashion brand: Daeja,” Richardson said.
Her mom bought her, her very own sewing machine for Christmas when she was in eighth grade. She decided to put her gift to use and teach herself how to sew.
In high school, Richardson was doing something many people her age probably could not even imagine doing at such a young age. She held her very first fashion show at Nola Spaces in New Orleans during the summer of her freshman year at Isidore Newman School in 2015. Her next showcase was New Orleans Fashion Week in 2016, where she was the youngest participant in the Battle of the Decades Fashion Show.
“I remember watching television when I was eight years old, staring intently at the designer labels and products representing the fashion houses of Paris,” Richardson said.
Richardson had no idea that her gift would turn into a reality for her and that she would win a spot in the Oxbridge Summer Program in Paris in 2016, and let alone study fashion with Pierre Antoine, a local Parisian Designer.
Through her fashion class, she met senior designers for Christian Dior and fashion designer, Romain Brau, she said. Traveling to Paris was not only a surprise to this young entrepreneur, it was a surprise to her family as well.
“Her traveling to Paris, really shocked me because it showed me how determined she was to get to where she wanted to be and looking at her now. I’m just so proud of her,” said Aniah Newman, Richardson’s younger cousin.
The young fashion designer isn’t just an inspiration to her followers, she is an inspiration to those who are close to her.
“She’s like a role model to me. She’s one of the reasons I like traveling around the world taking pictures,” Newman said.
Richardson reflected on a time when her entire fashion class took a trip to a thrift and fabric store and were given an assignment to make a piece of clothing look more expensive than it was and add to it with a newly found fabric.
“Instead of creating one piece, I hand sewed a bathing suit and added patches to an old thrift store jacket,” Richardson said.
Her class then organized a fashion show. Before leaving New Orleans, she packed a two-piece cover up set that she created from upscaling an old nightgown from the 1980s.
“I was not even sure why I had packed it. During some free time in Paris, I remembered this garment and used it as a wardrobe to create my very first photoshoot in Luxembourg Gardens,” Richardson said.
After leaving Paris, the young fashion designer was inspired to create her third swimwear collection, which debuted at her third fashion show.
“I have had many photoshoots with local models here in the City of New Orleans and have hosted multiple casting calls to meet new models,” Richardson said.
In 2017, Richardson launched her extensive website featuring her sunglasses and swimwear collection (thedaejlifestyle.com). Customers were able to purchase their very own Daej product. The website also featured an events page to update viewers and a lifestyle fashion blog. Richardson started blogging for the high school newspaper at Isidore Newman during her junior year. This motivated her to further her blogging skills for her very own website.
She now focuses full time on creating her lines of designs that range from swimwear to lipsticks, sunglasses and sweater sets. She said she draws her inspiration through artwork and even flowers.
While a junior in high school, she began to realize that her stubbornness about combining art and commerce could take her far. She loved the culture of Paris and felt a connection with the spirit of design, but she also wanted to learn more about what people wanted to wear. This made her feel as if she was more of an entrepreneur. It also motivated her to reach out to other local businesses such as Glitter Box Nola in hopes that they would sell her Zodiac Lip Gloss Collection.
“I’m humbled to see that my lip gloss inventory is now almost sold out at Glitter Box,” Richardson said.
Richardson is the type of girl who lights up every room that she is in.
“She’s an intelligent, beautiful, fashionable, woman, who deserves to be known for her work. She’s the type of girl you would want to be around because she brings smiles to your face,” Newman said.
This New Orleans Fashion Icon is determined to never disappoint her customers.
“Everything is handmade, so the quality is good. She really takes her time,” said Lentina Alexis, one of Richardson’s customers and models.
Richardson will drop a collection on the ninth of every month.
This article originally appeared in the New Orleans Data News Weekly.