When Elena Victoria (EV) was just 12 years old, her grandmother taught her how to sew.
While the two of them worked to complete curtains for her bedroom, she realized just how easy sewing was. She ran home that evening to start on her first dress. “I was filled with excitement over the scrappy dress,” she says with a laugh. “It was then I knew that I would someday become a fashion designer, deciding on the label ELENA VICTORIA.”
After finishing her degree in Fashion Design & Technology at Purdue University, EV was hired as a designer for Abercrombie Kids in Ohio, creating digital patterns and unique designs for their denim line.
Despite the new and exciting challenges that came with such a job, she longed for a more creative career. A year later, she left to start her own business, ELENA VICTORIA.
In 2016, EV decided to expand her offerings into Metro Detroit, where her fiancé, now husband, resided. The company grew quickly, reaching over 700 students within five years. While her sewing class offerings grew, so did her custom design line.
“Before I graduated from Purdue, I had taught hundreds of students how to sew,” she says. “I developed a fun and unique program that simplifies the art of designing custom clothing, making it achievable for kids of all ages.”
As EV filled her classes with many returning students, she quickly realized they were coming back for more than just a master sewing class.
“As their skills grew, so did their confidence,” EV says. “After completing each garment, you could see them stand a little taller, shoulders back, proud of their work. I saw myself in these kids and remember feeling that same accomplishment and joy.”
Knowing she had created something special, EV hired several teachers in the Detroit and Chicago areas to help her sewing school expand.
“COVID was a challenging time for all businesses. I knew I had to think outside the box,” EV says. “Parents were looking for activities to lead their children away from screens, and our classes were just the thing. Class formats were adjusted to keep students safe, most of them were held outside, in garage bays, and in large basements. During such a challenging time for kids, our in-home sewing classes met the needs of our clients.”
EV recruits only the best talent to help her run classes. “In addition to having a very impressive skill set, these instructors are helping build confidence in our students, which is our primary mission. It’s very fulfilling to watch my EV sewing students go on to study fashion design in college,” she says. “It’s incredible to think that I played a part in making that happen.”
Elena believes that inspiring youth to follow their dreams is of the utmost importance, especially when it comes to her talented interns. Her mission is to help these college students accomplish their professional goals and excel in their career.
“One of my teachers dreamed of opening a clothing boutique of her own—and she did,” EV explains. “I have another teacher who wanted to design her own jewelry line. She launched it last year, selling to boutiques in the Chicagoland area. My objective is to help my teachers achieve their dreams, while inspiring students to do the same.”
When EV moved back to Chicago last May, she left 700 students in Detroit in the capable hands of her teachers. She’s now cultivating her student base in Chicago and nearby suburbs.
“Our boutique sewing classes are taught by real designers in the industry looking to make a positive impact through their passion for art and design,” she explains. “As I continue to hire and recruit more talent, I’m able to take on more of the management role in overseeing these classes as a true business, while continuing to design gowns,” she says. “We are expanding our offerings into new suburbs and excited to be back home in Chicago where this all began.”
With so much attention to the quality programming she’s offering students, it’s hard to believe that this entrepreneur has any time to work on her custom designs.
“When I first started my dress line, I said ‘yes’ to too many things,” she remembers. “I think there was a year when I made 40 custom dresses. I was stretching myself too thin. Now that my brand is more established, I exclusively commit to four to six brides a year, allowing me to dedicate the proper time and energy into each design.”
It was EV’s own wedding gown that truly launched her as a reputable designer. “Once people discovered I had made my own gown, orders followed quickly,” she says. “Today, I love that I can design custom dresses for women of any age specifically made for them. It really is a dream come true.”
To learn more about Elena Victoria, visit elenavictoria.co.