Clothing

Tanzanian women’s clothing boutique opens in downtown Raleigh

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Lilian Danieli came to America as a nanny and fast food worker. Now she’s opening a downtown Raleigh clothing store with products of her native Tanzania.

Nashona, a women’s clothing line featuring the vibrant colors of Tanzania’s traditional garb, has a new location in downtown Raleigh.

For the company’s founder, Lilian Danieli, the store represents decades of toiling to achieve the American dream.

“She is the story of an immigrant coming to America and making opportunities,” said Joyce Salala, Danieli’s closest friend. “When I tell you about rags to riches, there’s no better example than Lilian.”

Danieli and Salala are Tanzanian immigrants. When Danieli came to the U.S. about 25 years ago, she subsisted as a nanny and fast food worker. Eventually she married and raised a family. But her entrepreneurial spirit was indomitable.

“Women, we at a certain point start finding ourselves,” she said, “sometimes after we’ve taken care of other things.”

Danieli founded Nashona — which means “to sew” in Swahili — in 2012, and opened her first brick-and-mortar shop in Goldsboro five years later. The new location at 21 West Hargett Street is the company’s second. The shop opened Saturday.

“I’m so excited because most of my online customers have come from the Raleigh-Durham area,” Danieli said. “So I’m closer to them now in person. This has been a dream come true.”

Nashona’s 100% cotton dresses are made in the traditional Tanzanian style by eight makers in Dar es Salaam, the east African country’s largest city. Bracelets, bangles, hair picks and other accessories are similarly imported from Tanzanian craftspeople.

“We want everything to show off the beauty of Tanzania,” Danieli said.

‘Giving back’ and supporting a cause

Part of Danieli’s drive to establish a profitable business was to support disadvantaged Tanzanian children. On a trip home several years ago, she visited the Shalom Orphanage in Karatu and vowed to assist the underfunded organization.

“When I saw the children and their condition it broke my heart,” Danieli said. “As an orphan, you don’t know your future.”

From her Goldsboro store and online sales, Danieli raised enough money to sponsor eight children, seeing to their physical needs and putting them through a private school.

“I thought my way to give back would be through education,” she said.

She hopes to expand her transatlantic philanthropy with the extra revenue her Raleigh shop will produce. Shoppers can take pride, Danieli said, knowing their money helps underprivileged youths lead better lives.

“We want to keep sponsoring as many as we can with as much money as we can,” she said. “These kids really deserve it.”

To learn more about Nashona and its “giving back” program, visit www.nashona.com.

This story was originally published November 6, 2021 7:00 AM.

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Lars Dolder is a business reporter at The News & Observer with a focus on retail.