What country were you born in (if first generation, where is your family from?), and how long have you lived in Cleveland? 

I was born in Corpus Christi Texas in the United States, but my father is an immigrant from Guatemala City in Central America. He came to this country when he was 14 and became naturalized in the 80s under the amnesty act. My mother is of Mexican and Spanish origin. Though she is fair-skinned with auburn hair and freckles she is a full-blooded Latina.

I moved to Cleveland in 2002 from Corpus Christi Texas when I was 21. I’ve lived here for almost 19 years and counting.

Tell me about the inception of your business! Why did you choose to start Yellowcake Shop? Is this part of your culture? Take me through your creative process. 

I chose to start my business, Yellowcake Shop out of desire, necessity, and a craving to contribute in some small way to the greater good. I wanted to make my mark on the world but in a positive and impactful way. I wasn’t sure how to do that through fashion and I fought it for a very long time. I was always taught that in order to contribute to society you had to be a doctor, a lawyer, a missionary, or some other “noble” vocation. Fashion to me, though I loved it, seemed so self-serving and frivolous. when I learned about the slow fashion industry, which is a thoughtful and responsible approach to fashion, as it compares to fast fashion; which typically marginalizes women and children of color, I quickly saw how I could help be a part of the solution.

By starting my own ethical and sustainable handmade clothing company that focused on garments built to last a lifetime, while also hiring local women, paying a fair living wage, I realized that I could be part of a movement that was working to change the landscape of fashion one small business at a time.

Sewing in general was not something that I learned growing up from my mother or grandparents. Cooking and working with my hands outside and with building materials was more of what I learned from my parents. My father is a carpenter and a home builder, and my mother is a world-class cook and craftsperson. Attention to detail, tenacity for color, shape and form are all part of the creative DNA that Latin American people often arrive at naturally. Textiles, weaving, painting, creating, have been prevalent and widely sought after in Hispanic culture for ages.

My creative process is fairly simple. I rely heavily on function and necessity. But function and necessity cannot thrive without color and form. At the end of the day, I do my best to marry function, silhouette, style, and color to arrive at the most practical and flattering timeless piece possible that will serve our clients best.

The pioneers and supporters of International Women’s Day believe that “from challenges come change.”: What has been the largest challenge in building your business? 

The largest challenge in building my business has been adaptation. The fashion industry changes by the minute. We often have to be very nimble and swift to change consumer trends, selling platforms, and movements happening within the world that affect our industry. When you have such large equipment, systems, and processes to create and produce your garments from start to finish- it takes a lot of effort, engineering, and infrastructure building to shift your operation to meet the demands of the ever-changing landscape.

There is a lot of competition in the fashion industry. And unfortunately, a lot of cheaply made knock-offs and garments that most consumers are unaware of are made irresponsibly and dangerously contribute in a negative way to society. One of our biggest challenges is educating clients on the difference between slow fashion and fast fashion and why slow fashion goods like ours require the price that we ask. We don’t sell our goods at premium prices to be greedy or to get rich. We require those prices to pay our staff well, to pay for our time, to pay for costly overhead and to invest back in the business so that we can grow and continue providing the garments and services that we provide.

Educating our clients on the benefits of purchasing goods that will last much longer than disposable fashion takes a lot of time, effort, and money. But we’ve been lucky to grow our brand slowly and confidently overtime to gain the trust of our clients and a healthy following of consumers that understand our processes and pricing.  

Website: yellowcakeshop.com 

Instagram: yellowcakeshop
Facebook: yellowcakeshopcle
Linked In: Valerie Mayen 

Business Name: Yellowcake Shop 

Location: 78th St. Studios, 1300 W. 78th St., Cleveland, OH ( currently open by appointment – 1 pm-7 pm Tuesday and Thursday
Email: [email protected]
Brief description: Yellowcake is the signature line of women’s outerwear and accessories designed and crafted by artist and Project Runway alumna Valerie Mayén. Her garments are handmade in the United States with keen attention to detail, superior construction, and timeless design.