In her workshops, Elena Victoria teaches children sewing skills while encouraging them to think creatively.
By Ri’An Jackson
Photography by Morgan Heinzmann
Elena Victoria uses her passion for fashion to promote children’s self-esteem.
The Royal Oak resident teaches sewing workshops that show kids as young as 6 the fundamentals of sewing and self-expression.
Her camps stemmed from an old want. When Victoria learned to sew at age 12, she couldn’t find creative sewing and design classes.
“My only resource was my grandmother,” says Victoria, now 27. “She was the only person that I could ask for help for sewing. She helped me design (and) work the machine, and then I would go off and design dresses on my own. They weren’t very good, but it was enough to get me going.”
And, she kept going. As her sewing improved, she began to teach others the trade for fun.
“My senior year (of high school) I made my graduation gown,” she says. “That was kind of an ‘Aha’ moment. I thought, ‘Wow I can really do this — I can turn fabric into clothes. I want to do this for the rest of my life.’ ”
She started teaching sewing camps in the summer for extra money.
Yet becoming a full-time sewing coach was not the fashionista’s initial career aspiration. After graduating from Purdue University, she designed children’s denim for Abercrombie Kids.
“About a year into that job, I was getting email after email of parents saying, ‘Do you still do those sewing camps?’…So I felt this intuition that I should leave (Abercrombie) and do it. That was the best decision I ever made.”
This decision led her to trademark her name in 2015 and begin running sewing camps every week around her native city Chicago. Upon moving to Royal Oak in 2015, she brought her camps to Metro Detroit and started commuting to teach at all the locations. Locally, many are held at libraries and schools.
“I don’t have a lot of balance,” she says. “I struggle with the grind. But, I like to push myself to the limit.”
Her summer sewing camps — each running five days a week for three hours a day — teach her students sewing techniques in an open, friendly environment. Instead of giving each student identical assignments, Victoria guides them through designing a one-of-a-kind piece.
When the roughly 10 kids leave each class, they bring home a completed garment. On Fridays, Victoria holds a special fashion show for the kids to model their designs outside of the sewing room.
“They make so many different things,” says Renee Yaldo, a parent in Birmingham who has enrolled her daughters in Victoria’s classes since 2016. “…It’s so nice to see all the girls come together, and it teaches them team building.”
“My No. 1 goal with these children is to teach them to have self-assurance and feel proud of themselves,” Victoria says. “A lot of them come in really shy…they’re looking around, and they don’t know anyone. They don’t say a word for the first hour, and then by Friday, they’ve made 10 to 12 friends, they’re standing up taller, they’re strutting down the runway at our fashion show and they’re super confident. That’s how I know I achieved what I wanted to achieve.”
For information on upcoming classes, visit elenavictoriadesigns.com/book-online.