MSU Junior, 20, opens DBN boutique for black women in East Lansing

EAST LASING – Frustrated by the lack of shops for Black women in East Lansing – and unreliable online retailers – a Michigan State University student takes fashion into her own hands.

After months of renovating an office on MAC Avenue, Onylah Taggart opened the doors of the DBN boutique last week, a mix of styles for young black women.

“We need more clothing stores,” said Taggart, a junior advertising management student. “We shouldn’t sit (at home) and order online and keep our fingers crossed so that it comes on time.”

Taggart said most students can shop for clothes in downtown East Lansing and on the MSU campus, but black women have to leave town to find a store that suits them. She is already running out of “Kim K” sets from DBN – a crop top and leggings.

Fatoumata Barry, a nursing student, met Taggart through MAGIC, a summer transition program for freshman black students at MSU. She struggled to find clothes in East Lansing and did most of her purchases in Detroit or online. Sometimes these online purchases are too small, too big, or just too thin.

“I think that goes for all black girls on campus: we shop online and dress from whatever we have in our closets,” she said. “It’s nice to have this because we could come and quickly get ourselves a cute outfit for tailgates and coming home.”

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The store on 301 MAC Avenue is a full-time job for Taggart, who takes classes during the day and opens the store Tuesday through Saturday from 12:00 PM to 8:00 PM. A small staff of friends helps out and she does her homework during the downtime in the store. She is also raising a 2 month old, Zhiare.

Taggart started trying his hand at fashion by blinding shoes in 2017. The name of their boutique comes from the old upstart Dazzle By Ny. She later started sourcing her own accessories through the store.

She moved into the apparel industry last year, working with vendors to build inventory while home in Detroit for her sophomore year due to the pandemic. She applied for a license and vendor approval and launched a website, DBNBoutique.com.

When she got back on campus, she was renovating a basement room between July and September. The flooring was bare cement, a brick wall had to be repainted, and the suspended ceiling had to be improved. Friends and family from Detroit came over to help both the store and Zhaire.

Onylah Taggart, 20, of DBN Boutique in East Lansing.

Today the store features floor-to-ceiling mirrors, a photo shoot space, bright purple paint, and an area for a friend’s eyelash extensions and lip filler store, Klashed.

Rakala Todd, also a nursing student at MSU, moved Klashed to the DBN premises after becoming an eyelash technician at the age of 16 in Lathrup Village, a suburb of Detroit. She sees about three clients a day while managing her schedule.

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The two 20-year-olds decided to run their businesses in tandem when they learned that MSU would be bringing students back to campus this year.

“I like being across from Michigan State and (the people) being able to go in and do their eyelashes,” Todd said.

Taggart and Todd anticipate that after they graduate in 2023, they will be hiring more people so they can take on day jobs or more education. Taggart plans to expand the business to multiple stores and attract more Black-owned stores to downtown East Lansing.

“I hope we get more salons, more boutiques, everything. I hope people will follow in my footsteps. I want to have jobs for people and sit here and leave my mark.”

Contact reporter Krystal Nurse at (517) 267-1344 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @KrystalRNurse.

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