We had the good fortune of connecting with Michèle Jochem Yunus and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Michèle, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Looking back, risk has always played a big part in my personal life as well as in my career, although it didn’t feel like a risk to me at that time.

Moving from Germany to Los Angeles seemed like a big risk to many, but I actually thought things through for years before taking the leap. It really depends on the person and what they define as a ‘risk’. For me, I always try to take calculated risks. I try to listen to my heart first before thinking it through and making realistic plans. It’s definitely a balance between emotions and pragmatism.

I always find it’s a bigger risk not to follow your true desires and later on live in regret. I think the best decisions are truly made by listening to our hearts. Of course, we need to be self-aware and set realistic expectations during that process. This can be a difficult task, as it’s human nature to idealize everything. So, I always try to think of the best- and worst-case scenarios before making a decision to mitigate my risk.

Building my business from scratch without a lot of resources might seem like a risk to many, but so was staying in my 9 to 5 job for the rest of my life. It took me years to build my brand. For a long time, it was my little side project while working a fulltime job. I think it’s important to be patient, but also, to put action behind your goals. Even if you work on it for an hour a day, it’s still better than nothing. Celebrate the small wins and take it step by step and your risk is greatly diminished.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
When I started designing pieces for my brand, I would begin with sketches as ideas came to my mind. Sometimes, I would improvise by cutting and sewing, just to see where my ideas were taking me. If that process feels intuitive, I know I’m on the right track.

For my first collection, I wanted to focus on designing beautiful and functional modest activewear after talking to my friends who wear head coverings. I wanted to create something that challenged both my creativity and my technical skills. During that process, so many different ideas came to my mind. I decided to come up with some designs for modest swimwear and leisurewear. So, I ended up with about 13 pieces for my first collection.
The focus behind my designs is to make ethical and modest clothing that is highly functional and stylish. So far, we’re only selling activewear but I already have many more ideas I’d like to explore.

I’m definitely most proud of winning Gold and Silver in multiple categories at the 2019 International Design Awards. Having other fellow designers recognize my work, was a very humbling experience and it felt like all the hard work paid off.

I think what sets us apart from other brands aside from our unique styling, is our commitment to empowering women who want to wear something that aligns with their values. I think those values have to go beyond what the brand represents. I’m excited to get more content out there that features hijab-wearing women, but also women of all shapes and sizes.

Was it easy? To be honest, it was challenging. There were lots of long nights and working on the weekend since I still had my full-time job. I overcame those challenges by taking breaks when I needed them, but staying focused at the same time. It’s all about the right balance. I think it’s important to forgive ourselves and to not give up when things get tough.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Now that things are getting back to a ‘new normal’, I’m looking forward to really taking advantage of our beautiful city again. I’m hoping to have some friends or family over and show them a good time.

I love all the food options LA has to offer, it’s unlike anywhere else. So, that’s definitely something I like to share with whoever is visiting and likes food as much as I do.
My favorite places are My Lai (really amazing Vietnamese food), Tacomiendo (super delicious Mexican food), Lettuce Feast (food truck offering vegan crispy chicken burgers, and more), B Sweet Dessert Bar (awesome bread pudding, cakes, and more), Cinnaholic in Echo Park (super tasty vegan cinnamon rolls).

Besides eating, I’d love to show people around by going to Venice Beach and then riding along the bike path to the Santa Monica Pier, and eventually making it to Main Street, have a coffee at Urth Caffé, and walk around and check out the cute and fun stores.

I’m hoping the open-air concert series at the Santa Monica Pier comes back. That would be a nice activity to do in the evening. You can sit at the beach, eat some food, and listen to live music.

Another wonderful thing to do is a nice hiking day in Malibu or the Pacific Palisades. A nice hike at Kenneth Hahn Park would also be fun. They have a hummingbird park there and you can usually see lots of beautiful hummingbirds.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I want to give a big shoutout to all the people that have always supported me throughout the years, whether it’s in my personal or professional life. Without all their love and support nothing would have been possible.

These are the people I’d love to give a shoutout to: my husband, my family and friends, Sew FYI, QuadM, RIISH, and all the customers and people who have been following our journey on social media. I’m very grateful to all the wonderful people I have in my life!

Website: leiashop.com

Instagram: @shop_leia

Facebook: @ShopLeia

Image Credits
Murad B. Yunus Sara García Anass

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutLA is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.