Fashion hits Hyde Park
Avant-garde Cape Verdean designer builds boutique business
Some artists stumble upon their skills and passion at a young age, almost as if they were born with them. This is how fashion designer Josefa Da Silva, owner of Josefa Da Silva boutique in Hyde Park, describes the moment when she first started making her own clothes in her native Cape Verde at 12 years old.
“It was almost as if I knew how to do it already,” she says. “I would watch my grandmother sew, but she never actually physically taught me.”
One day Da Silva snuck onto the sewing machine and started making clothes. Her grandmother found out and scolded her for using her machine, but then softened when she saw what Da Silva had been working on.
“She said, ‘Wait, hold up. You made that?’” Da Silva recalls. “She was impressed. From that day on, I was sewing every chance I got.”
The transition from artistic hobby to a full-time business venture occurred later on, while in college at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. Da Silva and her family immigrated to the U.S. in 2004 when she was 17.
She was on the planning committee for the university’s “Africana Night” event, but her team lacked the funds to hire a designer to participate in a fashion show. Much to the surprise of her peers, Da Silva volunteered to make the designs, revealing a hidden talent no one knew about.
She designed 25 looks for the event.
“Everyone loved it, and I was in the school newspaper the next day and they called me a fashion designer,” says Da Silva. “And I was like, ‘I’m a what?’”
She sold her first dress at the fashion show for $80.
“I knew how to make clothing and I loved it, but I didn’t know I could actually become a fashion designer and get paid for it,” says Da Silva.
Soon she was selling more and more designs to her schoolmates, out of the trunk of her car, and was invited to showcase at other fashion shows at other colleges.
In 2015, Da Silva was ready to take her fashion business to the next level and opened her own boutique at 1225 River Street in Hyde Park.
The entrepreneur says the space happened to be available and within her budget.
“Financing the store was a little tough in the beginning,” she says. Friends and family helped to start up the business.
At the boutique and showroom, original Josefa Da Silva designs are on display with jewelry and shoes by other designers. Da Silva describes her designs as an eccentric mix of Asian and African styles in vibrant colors and avant-garde shapes.
The clothes run in sizes 2 to 18 and are priced from $20 to $2,000 depending on whether the piece is custom-made or not. According to Da Silva, the larger sizes tend to sell more quickly than the smaller ones. She is currently working on a plus-size collection to debut in New York in February.
The designer has a core team of six people who assist with design, production, marketing and sales.
The Da Silva team introduces new designs and collections every season, and mostly produces the clothes in-house. Da Silva says she experimented with mass production at one point, but “it’s a huge cost and we needed to have a much larger team to move and sell those products.”
Da Silva has embraced the global market, showcasing and selling her designs from Jamaica, Nigeria and Brazil to New York and Los Angeles.
Although her business has thrived around the world, the local market was a challenge when Da Silva first opened her Hyde Park store.
“It was tough for me. To be able to design but also sell my products so I can maintain the shop,” she says.
The area in particular wasn’t the exact market that her high-fashion designs are intended for, but Da Silva has adapted by making items that are less avant-garde and more affordable and digestible to sell locally.
“But in the future,” she says, “we will be there in places like Newbury Street and we will continue with our high-end model.”
Da Silva’s fashion business began to really take off as she was finishing up school at UMass Boston, and she decided to focus on her passion full-time instead.
“Things were hard. I was trying to run a business at that time and I just never went back to it,” she says. “I took that leap of faith and was like, ‘I’m just going to do this.’”
Harnessing inborn talent and entrepreneurship skills, Da Silva continues to make strides further into the world of fashion, in Boston and beyond.
If You Go
The Josefa Da Silva boutique
1225 River St., Hyde Park.
Open 10 a.m.- 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
For more information, call: (857) 869-3416