‘More than just a store’

Dakima Maria Boutique opens on Washougal’s Main St.

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A large white sign, adorned with a photo of Dakima Hicks and the words, “I will never have it all together; I can only control me,” hangs on the west wall of the Daria Maria Boutique, downtown Washougal’s newest business.

Hicks took those words directly from her autobiography, “Inside This Dress: God Turned My Pain into Rose Petals.” She did not choose them by accident.

“That statement means no matter what someone else is going through, I don’t have to make it my problem or make whatever I’m going through be their problem,” said Hicks, the owner of the boutique. “I can only control (what’s) right here, where I am, and how I respond, how I act, how I treat (people), how I love. Those things are what I can control. Anyone else who is angry or happy or whatever state they’re in, I can’t do anything about it besides giving them a piece of the love that I share.”

That mindset helped Hicks to overcome a series of significant life challenges and achieve her dreams, the latest of which finally coming to fruition in the form of her boutique, which opened to the public on Monday, June 6, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by her family members and fellow downtown business owners.

“I’m so excited to be here,” said Hicks, a Washougal resident since 2018. “When I first (saw the space), I was like, ‘Wow, this is awesome. It’s not too big and it’s not too small. It’s perfect.’ And the ribbon-cutting was totally phenomenal. That was an experience that actually blew my mind because I’ve opened businesses before, but never (had something like that ceremony). To have people come from other businesses in town and say ‘We want to celebrate you’ was pretty special.”

Hicks’ made-from-scratch, customized women’s garments come in a variety of styles, sizes and colors, and are designed to provide personal styling and encourage their wearers to be their best selves.

“Dakima Maria Boutique is more than a store,” according to a Facebook post by the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce. “It’s a hub where fashion dreams are realized and where every customer is embraced with warmth, sophistication and a touch of glamour.”

To start out, Hicks stocked her boutique mostly with clothing items that have been featured at a major show, such as New York Fashion Week, Portland Fashion Week or Curvy Chic Closet Foundation.

“One of the things that sets me apart is the fact that you can wear some of my garments as a tube dress or skirt, frontwards or backwards,” Hicks said. “That’s kind of like my signature because I want people to be able to say, ‘I want to wear it like this’ or ‘I want to wear it like that,’ and just let them be comfortable and free to wear it like they want to. And I’m inclusive. A lot of people will just be like, ‘I only want to do (size) 0 to 8’ or whatever. The standard sizes of my fabrics can actually extend over into a more fuller size.”

Hicks said that every one of her collections “has a meaning to it.”

“A lot of (the inspiration for) my creations comes from experiences that I had,” Hicks said. “I want to see people look beautiful and feel comfortable. I do so much by just being creative. I can see the designs flowing through my mind, and the things that I’m developing for this store are actually targeted for this community, so it’s not so much my style, per se, as much as it is understanding the style of what’s around me (and what the community wants).”

Overcoming challenges

Hicks grew up in Detroit, where she experienced anything but an idealistic childhood. Her father was “abusive” and “spent weeks away from home at a time,” she wrote in a 2011 article for Modern Salon magazine. Her parents divorced when she was 14. She eventually dropped out of high school, married and had five children in the span of seven years.

Hicks’ fashion dreams began to take shape in 2003 after a friend of a friend taught her how to sew. She started to design clothes and eventually created a collection that she branded “Amikad” — “my (first name) backwards,” she noted. She sold her garments in a small boutique at two stores at a local mall. She enrolled in a fashion design school. She thought she was on her way to achieving her dream.

But when she decided to divorce her husband in 2008, she had to change her priorities in a major way.

“I had to close everything I had,” she said. “I had a little studio where I would go in and make the garments, and I had to close that down. That was really challenging for me because I wasn’t able to pursue (fashion) anymore. I had to think about how I was going to eat and how I was going to put a roof over my kids’ heads.”

In 2008, she packed up her children and moved to Las Vegas, lured by the promise of the MAGIC Fashion Trade Show, a biannual fashion marketplace that showcases women’s, men’s and children’s apparel, footwear, accessories, and manufacturing resources from around the world.

But she immediately ran into more problems.

“We were supposed to live with a friend from Michigan, but when we arrived the landlord saw them at the pool and stated, ‘They can’t stay here or you will have to pay $90 every day they’re here,’” Hicks wrote in the Modern Salon article. “We were homeless until a young couple allowed us to live in their five-bedroom home free of charge for seven months.”

Despite the difficult circumstances, Hicks didn’t give up on her goals of earning a cosmetology license, styling hair, and saving money to eventually re-establish her fashion design brand.

For the next several years, she worked two part-time jobs, earned a General Education Development (GED) degree, and attended the Euphoria Institute of Beauty Arts and Sciences cosmetology school. She graduated at the top of her class in 2016, then moved to the Pacific Northwest, following other family members who had settled in the area. After she landed steady work as a hairstylist in Portland, she decided to write a book, now available for purchase on Amazon.

“That book helped me become free,” she said. “I have people call me all the time and say, ‘I couldn’t put your book down. I had to read it in one setting.’ And I’m like, ‘Wow, that’s amazing.’ To know that I’m helping other people with my story (is very rewarding). To know that my life has created a story to help someone else feel like they can make it motivates me.”

After her book was published in 2018, Hicks began planning to launch her own hair styling business in Washington. Two years later, Dakima Maria Makeover Studios opened in Vancouver. But she didn’t stop there. She continued to pursue her dreams of making Dakima Maria a lifestyle brand rather than just a hair salon.

Hicks picked fashion design back up and booked shows at Portland Fashion Week and New York Fashion Week. She also pursued a third venture, cosmetic product development, creating eye shadow palettes, eye liners, lipsticks and more.

“When I first started going through the trial of what I was going through, I didn’t think that there was hope,” she said. “But I kept trying to believe, and I just started seeing little pieces come together. I knew that change was coming. I was always encouraged (by) people who saw stuff in me that I didn’t see. And it’s not that I can go back to help them, because I don’t feel like that’s what they’re looking for. I feel that they were looking for me to pay it forward, so that’s my goal. My goal is to change lives every single day of my life (by giving people) a smile or something to believe in themselves a little bit more.”

She believes she can accomplish those things with her boutique.

“I love all of (fashion design), from making the patterns to sewing to seeing people put on (my garments) and walk up a runway or take them home. It’s been absolutely amazing for me,” she said. “The more I do it, oh my goodness, the passion and the love that’s there just gives me so much joy and peace.”

Dakima Maria Boutique is located at 1887 Main St., Ste. B, Washougal. For more information, visit mamariafashion.