VCU alumni celebrate opening of new clothing store Chilalay

Co-owner Nikko Dennis, left, and Dillion Peters, right, put tags on Chilalay merchandise. Photo by Jon Mirador.

Milan Brewster, Contributing Writer 

A crowd of people gathered in a small store with a color scheme of mint blue and white. A DJ played some slow R&B tracks in the background of the space to set off a lighthearted mood to a Friday night. 

Chilalay, located on West Broad Street, is an urban streetwear brand founded by two VCU alumni, Nikko Dennis and Zack Morris, also known as Earl Mack. They hosted the store’s grand opening on Friday.

“Our vision is to be a Richmond-based street wear brand that is open to do creative pop-up events,” Morris said. “We design everything in house, and we have been doing it since 2012.” 

Dennis and Morris joined together to create Chilalay in 2012, when they were still students. They decided to launch the fashion brand after experiencing success with pop-up events for other brands. Dennis and Morris graduated that same year with degrees in business and sculpture, respectively.

The clothing store is in a brick and mortar space with racks of new apparel. It seeks to be an outlet for style, art and culture through its fashion with a message of “Chilalay ‘til payday.”

During the opening event, the store was busy with people coming in and out to check out the new local business. The night was accompanied by music from local artists DJ Markus Gold and artist Nasty Nate, and an after-party at Bandito’s Burrito Lounge. 

“It’s [opening up Chilalay] the best feelings ever. For as long as we have been working, this is like a new beginning, mission and journey,” Dennis said. “For us to get to this point is big. [We] can’t wait to see what’s next and how we grow it for the city.” 

Chilalay sells streetwear, including sweatshirts and bags, with many in-house screen printed designs.

“I think it’s really wearable for everybody, like it’s streetwear but it’s not prestigious,” said VCU alum Tahmair Tupponce. “Anybody can wear Chilalay. You don’t have to be a certain type of person.”

Chilalay has had many pop-up shops in the past, so attendees were glad to see the brand finally open up a store.

“I think it’s dope. I like the color scheme they got going on. I really vibe with it.” said Blacc Nadoe, who was in attendance. 

Chilalay had a soft opening on Monday for close friends and family of Dennis and Morris. It put the co-founders in good spirits for the grand opening. 

“I think that everybody that came out gave us some pretty good feedback about the space and how they felt about it.” said Morris about the soft opening. “Overall, it made us feel good about going into the grand opening.”

The co-owners of Chilalay are excited for the future of the store.

“We’re getting a lot of love from local businesses right in the area,” Dennis said. “Getting the love from the community and local businesses makes us feel like this is something.” 

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