Grandmother-Granddaughter Gown Designers

Photo by Karima Ullah

akini Ahket’s grandmother taught her how to sew when she was 8 years old in their overcrowded Southside Chicago home.

By the time Ahket was in high school she was making her own clothes.

Makini Ahket, 62, a retired art teacher and now grandmother herself taught her granddaughter, Yasmin Ali, 17, how to sew when she was just 5 years old at Cultural Roots-a summer art camp she holds every year.

Today, the grandma-granddaughter duo design wedding dresses together, combining Ahket’s love for culture and art with Ali’s young outlook and love for fashion.


“We bring two personalities into one dress,” says Ali.

The first dress they made was a pink bubble dress for Ali’s eighth grade graduation in 2008. Realizing they had something special as a team, they never stopped designing.

“I really respect my grandmother as an artist. I grew up [watching her make clothes] …so it’s good to be able give to each other,” says Ali, a senior at Renaissance High School.

Ahket had already been designing clothes inspired by fashion and art from different cultures for years, in addition being an artist. She’s a sculptor, painter, jewelry maker, graphic designer and weaver.

While Ali learned the skill of sewing and much of her appreciation for art and culture from her grandmother, her mother, Enid Reed, is also a valuable influence in this equation.

“I was the model of the family. I didn’t want to make [clothing], but I had an appreciation for the beauty of the clothes. I was on my way to New York to model when I found out I was pregnant with Yasmin,” says Reed.

Reed’s love for modeling and clothes continues to impact Ali’s craft.

While working together to design, Ali designs most of the dresses and Ahket chooses fabrics and steps in to tweak the fashions a little bit.

“I’m more simple, but I love her vision and watching her create,” says Ahket.

Designing is more of an expression of art and politics for Ahket, who grew up admiring the Black Panthers.
“My fashion is my politics,” says Ahket.

Ali’s love of fashion comes from an appreciation of textures. “It’s more about the fabrics and clothes for me,” adds Ali.

While the two create stunning dresses together, Ahket is planning a fashion show in Amsterdam and Ali is preparing for college. They design bridal gowns, as well as dresses for all occasions, sizes and cultures.

Cultural Couture, 479 Prentis St., Detroit, 313-617-2861

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