For a clothing designer who never touched a sewing machine until about five years ago, Valerie Mayen is doing pretty well. With a Project Runway season under her belt and the continued success of her boutique Yellowcake, Valerie's bold colors and geometric patterns attract international renown. "We sell to high school girls in Canada, British fashionistas, [and] soccer moms in Kuwait," she says. Her women's apparel currently focuses on the sherbet cools and bold warm colors popular this spring, but Valerie and her team of interns are poised to roll out a children's and men's line within the month. "We're trying to take it slow," she says, but with a brand in hot demand, taking it slow may not be possible.
Valerie was raised with an eye for the arts. Her father was a homebuilder and often reviewed blueprints with his children. He taught Valerie "a lot about proper craftsmanship and the value of accuracy and precision." With these values instilled in her, Valerie chose to study illustration in school because she thought it would be more lucrative than designing clothes—though she now seems aware of the irony. In the end, her studies at Virginia Marti College of Art and Design veered back towards clothing. She even took three sewing classes, but dropped out—"I taught myself the rest."
After rising to the upper echelon of popular designers, Valerie makes it a point to give back to her community. Her team of interns has helped develop creative jobs in Cleveland, and 5% of all her profits go to City Mission, a local organization that fights hunger and poverty.