‘It took me 10 years of grinding, of losing.’ Owner of Royal Oak’s Le Don shares journey in fashion industry

Posted at 9:32 AM, Feb 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-15 09:38:53-05

(WXYZ)  — “If you’re always chasing money, it’s going to run faster than you, but if you’re chasing purpose, you understand that your purpose will bring you profit only if you have the preparation there,“ said Chi Uwazurike, owner of Le Don in Royal Oak.

Uwazurike, who is Nigerian and among the youngest store owners in Royal Oak, said his dream of opening up a store and being a part of the fashion scene was a long time coming, and it wasn’t an easy journey.

“I want the person, whoever is reading this, to know that everything I’m doing right now, it didn’t start yesterday; it took me 10 years of grinding, of losing. . . when your winning season comes, people will never understand how much you’ve lost,” he said.

Photos courtesy Le Don

Uwazurike had worked in the fashion industry for more than a decade with a strictly online presence before he decided to explore opening up a storefront in Royal Oak, a suggestion from his late friend DJ Slick B.

“I just woke up one day and just . . . drove down here, and I just started looking,” he said.

There was a space on Washington Ave. that caught his eye and, despite the pandemic, he didn’t waste any time.

“When it’s time, it’s time,” he said. “When you see something that you know is for you, you just like know.”

Uwazurike said he made an agreement that day — putting the money down and getting to work. That was in July of 2020, by September, he was ready for business.

Signature hoodies that inspire, jeans and sneakers are a big focus of his store.

Photos courtesy Le Don

“My slogan is ‘progression requires movement,’ it doesn’t matter how fast or how slow you’re moving in life, as long as there’s progression there’s always movement, so that’s always been something that you’ll see in a lot of my clothes,” he said.

There’s also an element of art that draws people into Le Don.

Photos courtesy Le Don

“There’s an art space in the store . . . where I wanted to pay homage to the fallen legends that we know, just some of them,” he said. There's also a mural, which acts as a focal point of the store, and celebrates Motown, local sports teams and other Detroit destinations and symbols.

Photos courtesy Le Don

His hope, he said, is for people to check their egos at the door and come in with an open mind.

“Being a Black man in Royal Oak is not easy,” said Uwazurike. “I don’t want to be judged for my color, I don’t want to be judged for choosing streetwear, I don’t want people to come in here and look down on my designs. . . I just want people to be open.”

Uwazurike said he was studying biology at Wayne State University, on track to go to medical school and become a doctor, when he realized his true passions were elsewhere. After launching his first clothing brand while in school, he made the decision to switch his major to economics with a minor in business.

“I wanted to make sure that I actually aligned with what I was doing outside of school . . . while I doing it professionally, I was also doing it educationally,” said Uwazurike.

He said he got into fashion to spread love.

“What I’ve always wanted to do in my life with purpose is to just help people with fashion,” he said. “I’ve had people come in here sad, having a bad day and then leave happy.”

He said that’s the greatest feeling, even if the customers don’t leave with a signature Le Don piece, but he has noticed one trend.

“It smells so great,” he laughed referencing his store. “Even if you don’t buy anything in my store . . . you leave with at least three or four candles. That’s still a blessing to me.”

The ‘Madison & Grayce’ candles are made by another local entrepreneur, who Uwazurike said launched the same time he opened his store.

The pandemic, Uwazurike said, has given him the time he needed to reach some of his major goals, like opening Le Don in Royal Oak and writing a book. ‘Le Don Essentials: Try New Heights’ was released in November. He said he’s sold more than 2,000 copies through his store and online.

“The world slowed down so we could catch up,” he said of the pandemic.

Uwazurike added, “Granted, it was the worst thing we could have ever experienced, but for some people, it was the best opportunity for them to . . . elevate their lives.”

Le Don Collection
508 S Washington Ave.
Royal Oak