Tracy Leeds, A+E Networks
Utah resident Ayana Ife on “Project Runway.”
Ife, 27, grew up in a small Muslim community in New York. Her mother would sell the clothes she sewed to their neighbors and friends, and Ife would take the scraps to make her own doll clothes. One of 11 siblings, Ife got a lot of hand-me-downs growing up and would often cut the hemlines or change them up to add her own personality to her clothes. Her classmates would notice and ask her to make something similar for them.
“I found that it was a really great way for me to express my personal style,” Ife said in an interview with the Deseret News. “I was really quiet growing up, so I was able to just put all of my emotion, my feeling into my work and designs, and I found a lot of joy in that.”
She went on to get her bachelor’s degree in apparel design and made fashion her career. Then, a divorce prompted her to make a fresh start for her life. So, about two years ago, she moved in with her sister in Utah.
Shortly after her move, Ife attended Utah Fashion Week to do some networking. It was there that she was introduced to a more Western style of modest dress than she’d seen before. She met members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for the first time and discovered they understood each other when it came to modest fashion.
Ife spent some time working at a bridal shop, then became a recruiter for a medical research facility so she could focus on making her own label on the side. Shortly after moving to Utah, she found out that the state is No. 1 in the nation for creating small businesses, so she took advantage of that to sharpen up her business acumen. She joined an entrepreneur group and found mentors. She got better at pitching her business to strangers and targeting her market.
“When I came here, I put my best foot forward and I opened my mind to learning,” she said. “I said, ‘I’m going to flip this and make it positive.’ It doesn’t matter where I am or…