Heri za Kwanzaa! Kwanzaa is a seven-day African American and pan-African festival that celebrates family, community, and culture from December 26 through January 1.
In celebration of Kwanzaa and the end of the holiday retail shopping season, we want to give the community an opportunity to learn more about Lilian K. Danieli, owner and designer of NASHONA.
NASHONA, meaning "I sew" in Swahili, is a Downtown Raleigh boutique that sells vibrant kangas and kitenges handmade with love in Tanzania along with other headwear, jewelry, and more. Danieli’s kindness, cultural pride, and community-building are elegant embodiments of this season’s ideals and the 7 principles of Kwanzaa, Nguzo Saba.
Entrepreneurs like Danieli make up the strong, mission-driven, and forward-thinking independent retailer community that puts Downtown Raleigh on the map as a destination for shopping.
What is the philosophy behind your brand and designs?
The philosophy is to make women look good and feel good about themselves. It’s all about women feeling beautiful, women empowerment is really important. People say, “Where am I going to wear this; it’s so colorful,” and I say let’s just be ourselves. It’s okay to stand out and be different. My clothes are not just for Black Americans, they are for everybody. We want everybody to enjoy these clothes.
Why did you choose Downtown Raleigh for your second location?
I had a store in Goldsboro, and I would come to Raleigh for pop-ups, and Raleigh was just amazing. For me, it was my dream to come to Downtown Raleigh. You have a variety of people and lots of diversity; it’s just amazing and a beautiful place to be. It’s all love. There’s so much love in Raleigh that I was honestly not expecting–it just blew my mind.
How are you connected to your philanthropic initiative and what fuels that passion?
NASHONA donates a portion of their proceeds to fund educational scholarships and day-to-day maintenance at the Shalom Orphanage in Karatu, Tanzania and provides women in Tanzania with jobs.
Giving back is what fuels my passion. When I came to America from Tanzania, I realized that there is an abundance here. There is so much we are blessed to have, but a lot of people back in my country are still struggling.
For me, it was the orphans. I have three children myself, and I couldn’t imagine a child waking up without a mom and dad. That touched my heart, so I thought of a way to help. A couple years before I started NASHONA, I would bring clothes and shoes and all of that [to the orphanage] but for me, education was one of the most important gifts I could help give to an orphan. Honestly, I’m just so happy to give back. Every time I go there, my cup gets very full by just doing that. I’m looking forward to going to Tanzania again and just pouring into these children and hugging them.
That’s just my passion, you know. People asked me, “Why would you open during a pandemic?” I have a village waiting for me, so I can’t stop–I have to continue. There’s a village behind me waiting for me to support and empower them.
Why is it important to shop small and support diverse artisans?
It’s really important because without you, the locals, we wouldn’t be here. We feel loved, so we get up every morning and strive to do our best. When the locals are there, they feel like your friends–it’s community. And without community, there’s no village. There’s no us.
What does 2023 have in store for NASHONA?
We’re going to see a lot of new and bold designs, something NASHONA has not done before. In 2023, we’re going to blow everyone’s minds. We’ve been here for a year, so we know what to do now and what people want from us.
Is there anything else you would like to say?
Let’s all celebrate Kwanzaa, let’s all celebrate Christmas, let’s just be happy!