The dreams we dream as children don’t always come true, but LaTerry Ya’seen’s did. “I always wanted to be in fashion,” Ya’seen says. She was the 5-year-old who met questions like “What do you want to be when you grow up?” with a runway walk. “I was ready, honey.”
Ya’seen earned a degree in fashion marketing and merchandising from Northwood University, studied fashion design and photography in London, and started working in New York City’s garment district as a trade show assistant for Alpha Garment Inc. She had everything she’d wanted, and she was miserable.
Ya’seen’s zeal for fashion resided in the way the right clothing can make women, in particular, feel. For her, the magic was in that inner “glow and shine” that manifests from pulling on a pair of pants that fit impeccably, or zipping up a dress in a print or color that perfectly captures the wearer’s spirit.
She found herself in an industry where the message was “‘You’re not good enough until you have our products,’ instead of embracing and enhancing who you are.”
And so she left. Ya’seen moved back home to Detroit and spent 13 years working a corporate job that had nothing to do with the fashion industry. But a first love never really dies.
In December 2019, she got back in touch with fashion and opened Sew Modest Studio. This time, she’s determined to do things her way. The Dearborn-based sewing and design studio, where Ya’seen is director and lead instructor, offers a host of women-only workshops, from sewing courses to jewelry-making classes, along with social mixers.
Sewing classes include a four-week introductory course, a six-week intermediate course, and an eight-week advanced course and are “about women coming together and sharing our passion and creativity, learning,” Ya’seen says. The studio also offers an eight-week summer camp for girls ages 7 to 19, where participants learn sewing and design skills along with how to cope with issues like anxiety and negative body image — all culminating in an end-of-season fashion showcase.
Ya’seen also founded her own brand of modest clothing, but she’s put that on pause due to a series of manufacturing snafus. She still creates custom designs on request, and she wants to bring her brand back but with a revamp.
“One of the things I’ve always loved is outerwear. It’s perfect in the sense that it opens my brand up to a wider market. It’s not completely tailored or focused on Muslim women who wear full coverage. I think that sometimes with faith in fashion, there’s this thin line between not wanting to produce things that would go outside the scope of what I believe, but I also don’t want to try to force a market to wear things that they don’t want to wear.”
Here, Ya’seen shares more of what informs her unique perspective and style.
My personal style is …
Moody. It’s definitely going to fluctuate, not necessarily with trends but with whatever I’m infatuated with at the moment. And so that may be like some cool structural technique, and I’m like, “Oh, I want to make five of these because I want to master the technique.” And now, all of a sudden, my wardrobe all has pointy shoulders.
My favorite place to people-watch:
I love the water, so I’ll take the riverfront. There used to be these cool swings, and I would just sit there for hours.
If I could only wear one accessory, it would be…
When I get dressed and walk outside, I like to feel …
I love fashion because …
Of how it has the power to just transform a woman.
For more information about Sew Modest Studio, visit sewmodeststudio.com.