SHOP Dalaga NYC
Early March 2014, for my Advanced Feature Writing class, my first assignment was a Non-Personality profile. I had to select a specific business, social issue or trend to profile and write an article about. I chose a unique boutique in Greenpoint, Brooklyn with the most unique name Dalaga NYC because I am and will always be a fashionista in search for new trends. (By the way I receieved a B). Check out my article titled…….
The Birth, the Growth and the Transition of Dalaga NYC
In 2006, concrete buildings along Franklin Street in Green Point, Brooklyn were filled with artistic graffiti and misunderstood handwriting. The abandoned storefronts were accompanied by a few bars and restaurants, which, by the look of that late Sunday afternoon, brought many visitors daily. With the inclusion of coffee shops, parks and studio spaces, the warm welcoming unique neighborhood of Greenpoint lacked something in particular; Fashion and Style. This is how Dalaga NYC, the very first boutique to open on Franklin St., made its unforgettable debut in 2006.
“People didn’t really consider it a shopping destination,” said Mary, the owner of Dalaga NYC, referring to the area on Franklin St. “It really is kind of like this micro neighborhood.” Greenpoint is, particularly, pretty small which helps Dalaga NYC stand out in a neighborhood filled with nothing but restaurants, bars and deserted buildings. Owners Mary Mangiliman and her sister Michelle changed the look of Franklin St. adding color, culture and compassion to the already welcoming atmosphere of Greenpoint.
Since opening in 2006, Dalaga NYC has made their own statement in the fashion industry through the support of Greenpoint’s small tight-knit community. Through the years Dalaga NYC became very successful, carrying on niches such as “Best Dresses”, “Best Women’s Store” and “Brooklyn’s #1 classic boutique, which was inspired by their Filipino culture. However, Mary and Michelle now have bigger and better accomplishments in which they BOTH must attend to in the near future. Expecting newborns in a few months, “it’s time to move our business out of the store and onto our customer’s desktop” said Mary, explaining the reason for closing Dalaga NYC in Greenpoint on Sunday, March 2nd. “We’re looking for a bigger space but for now we have a 24/7 online store at DalagaNYC.com with your favorite independent designers.”
From the very beginning, sisters Mary and Michelle dreamed of one day opening their own boutique. They commend their mother for installing the vision in their head since they were little girls. “She has always been an amazing example of beauty, confidence, determination, and elegance,” said Mary. “Looking back it makes perfect sense that this is what we were destined to do.” Both sisters looked up to their mother so much that they played dress up and boutique in her closet assigning each other roles such as merchandiser, customer, and cashier.
Dalaga first started out as their idea for an independent clothing line designed and created by the owners. The name Dalaga, meaning “Lady” or “young woman” in Filipino, grew on the boutique owning sisters when their father used to call them Dalaga during their stylish years. “Oh, you’re a Dalaga NOW!” Mary mocked her parents and older relatives with the statement they would normally say during their Filipino teenage years. “Dalagas are young women who girls look up to in admiration because of their confidence. Today, a Dalaga is an independent, confident, unapologetic woman who knows who she is.” Mary and Michelle, who are of Filipino descent, wanted to create a brand that represented not only their Filipino culture. They also wanted it to be based on their personal identities involving their mother. “We’ve always known that we wanted to do something in fashion and it was just kind of natural to us to go this route” said Michelle.
With a black and white brick layered storefront, Dalaga displayed a naturally “lady-like” setting even with half of the merchandise already sold and out the front door. Vintage furniture, classy dresses; sassy blazers and edgy jackets graced the window display with the boutiques Filipino inspired name, Dalaga, written up above the entrance of the store. The chandeliers up above added a sweet atmosphere to the boutique. It gave it a sprinkle of class and elegance along with the colorful seasonal trends and flirty finds. Past the register area, which resembled a vintage dresser, was their back office space that often made a “Woof-Woof” sound. “That’s our pet and the store’s mascot Lolo Motto“, said Michelle, referring to the Filipino-inspired name meaning Grandpa Motto. “He’s pretty old. He [from time to time] used to sleep in the window display with our fashionista like mannequins. He’s harmless.”
Dalaga NYC supports local designers and appreciates new and fresh material to sell to their loyal customers. Local New York and Brooklyn designers, such as Rannie Balias who is a good friend of the sisters, started out at Dalaga NYC. Clothing lines such as Friend and Nemesis, Dress Reform, and Alexandra Grecco are some of the most unique lines there is and Dalaga carry them all. Popular clothing lines like BB Dakota and Dolce Vita are also among the many lines they carry at the boutique. “To me, it’s really important to support local designers that are at our price range and are fashionably innovative” said Michelle referring to the uniqueness of Dalaga. The boutique has a new and improved version of fashion and exposes new designers with a different touch of passion. Dalaga carry more than shoes and women’s clothing. The boutique and online store also sale house ware, greeting cards, accessories, bags, fragrances and jewelry. Some of each is handmade and also inspired by their Filipino roots.
Once the boutique opened and settled in the Greenpoint neighborhood, Dalaga NYC became very successful. It was so successful that they opened a second boutique in Soho. However, after a year in business, Mary and Michelle decided to close the Soho location and focus on the Brooklyn store. Their plan was to pursue their growing jewelry line, which is also sold at Dalaga NYC.
After opening their boutique, the sisters thought of others ways to expand their brand while keeping their culture shining through Dalaga. Debuting their first original limited edition jewelry collection early 2013, the sisters, once again, tapped back into their roots with a Filipino inspired collection of gold-filled chains, earrings, brass and tribal influenced beads, pendants, bracelets, necklaces and much more. “Designing our jewelry collection, I took another look back at our Filipino culture, the Philippine myths and the fairy tales of our childhood while designing” said Michelle, who handmade the jewelry pieces at their studio in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
Unfortunately, on Nov. 8th, 2013, after a monstrous typhoon hit back home (the Philippines), the sisters decided to give back to the place where the inspiration for their boutique came from. During that following week, Mary and Michelle decided to donate 100% of the profit from their limited edition jewelry line as well as their homemade greeting cards. Some of these which featured old family photos were also inspired by their Philippian roots. Dalaga designed tote bags to Advancement for Rural Kids (ARK), a non-profit organization focusing on the fight to eliminate hunger, improve education and health for kids. It also give parents chances to earn new income with their involvement in improving the community. “Over the past couple years, we have been working closely with ARK to build schools and farms in developing parts of the Philippines” said Mary, whose family was safe throughout the devastation.
Their dedication and commitment to their homeland and culture shines through every aspect of their lives. Dalaga NYC keeps advancing and improving.
The fragrances sold at Dalaga NYC are another nod to their culture and commitment to their business. For Dalaga NYC five year anniversary in 2011, the sisters collaborated with MCMC Fragrances, a boutique fragrance brand and studio based in Greenpoint, to create a special fragrance for the shop. The Dalaga fragrance was also inspired by their Filipino culture and based on Michelle’s favorite flower from the Philippines. “Our Dalaga fragrance is based off of my favorite flower, Sampaguita” said Michelle. “Before we had the Dalaga fragrance, I was only able to smell Sampaguita when I was in the Philippines. Now I have it on all day long.” Dalaga sells other fragrances including colognes, oils and perfumes.
Working with local Brooklyn designers, a non-Profit organization and a fragrance company, Dalaga NYC draws attention to its very unique fashion and style because of the amount of inspiration behind their business movements and goals. “Customers always refer to our boutique as chic and adorable”, says Mary. “I honestly think it’s our background and culture that shines through the store and makes it so unique and eye opening”. We sell known designers in our boutique but up and coming designers are the ones we want to expose.”
Moving online with plans of relocating, customers and fashionistas will miss their home away from home but the online shopping experience will make up for the lost. “Our customers were stunned by our closing, telling us that they will miss the boutique and reminding us of their amazing experiences here,” said Michelle. “But we had to remind them that we’re moving online so there’s no need to worry about missing out on spring and summer shopping at Dalaga.” One customer noted that “this was and will always be my favorite boutique in NYC.” Another customer went back to what first lead her to Dalaga to begin with saying “ this is why I used to like wandering around Greenpoint because you’ll find stores like this,” referring to Dalaga NYC,” in an unexpected place with unexpected prices for unexpected fashion.”
Customers saw their boutique as the place to shop, especially in the insignificant community of Greenpoint. However, moving to an online community full time only takes away the storefront experience of Dalaga NYC and not their Filipino culture inspired innovative style.
Now that the boutique has made a name for itself in the fashion industry and in the small community of Greenpoint, they have chosen to create an online store selling all merchandise that was sold in the physical boutique. They continue to search for a bigger and better-quality location for the boutique as well. The sisters also plan to open more stores, in and out of New York. Mary and Michelle would love to go back to planning and designing their original Dalaga clothing line in which they initially started with. “That’s how Dalaga began,” said Mary, “and it would be fun to create collections together again. Over the years, we have worked, lived and co-parented together. Dalaga is our baby.”
Make sure you check out Dalaga NYC’s online store and start shopping for the most unique trends for spring and summer.
Befriend the Trends at Dalaga NYC!