Mom's a Genius: Local designer repurposes clothing to make fun, funky creations

Posted at 4:35 PM, Jan 25, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-25 23:19:45-05

"Make everyday your runway!" That's the motto of  Lenita Sue Swain-Cleveland's clothing company, Mason Tone by Honey. Honey is what friends and family call her... Mason Tone what her grandma's nickname for her.

"I make custom clothing that is fun and funky right from my imagination," she says. "No patterns here. I just wake up, dream it and sew it."

And what she often uses to make her one of a kind designs is old clothing. She repurposes, or "upcycles" pieces she buys at thrift stores. She turns scarves into sweaters, denim jeans and shirts into skirts. She also works with clothes her customers bring her.

"So that customer can bring us 5 to 6 sweaters out of their closet or dad’s closet, or their son went away to college and you want to wrap yourself up in him. Bring in his stuff to us, and we’ll turn it into something fashionable and new."

"Honey" has never played by the fashion rules so to speak. Her love for unique designs and sewing began when she was a young girl. Her grandmother taught her how to sew. And she'd try her hand at creating unique items when her mom would buy her clothes.

"She would buy me a beautiful pair of Levi jeans but I would take off to the basement and throw bleach all over them and I would cut them up," she explains.

She'd create her own look.

"I just never wanted to look like everyone else."

And now she helps other women do the same... making everyday their runway.

"There are no rules as to how you're supposed to look and even though life throws a lot of things at you. You never know what you're going to face in a day. Sometimes you don't feel so great but if you just look a little better, sometimes you feel a little better... Make that day your runway. Don't wait for it to come to you.

Honey certainly didn't expect what came her way a few years ago. She worked in sales, but was laid off. 

"I lost my job. I had to make something happen and I had to make it happen really fast because without work you don't eat."

She decided to open a boutique in the living room in her house. She quickly outgrew that, and now she creates and sells out of an office building in Southfield.. She shares the space with her dear friend and "cousin" Scarlet, who's the designer behind the brand RedFunk. Their design studio and store is called RedFunk/MasonTone Custom Clothing and is located at 24400 Northwestern Highway.

"I started the whole business with just $200 and a cousin and a dream, and it's turned into this... so we think we're doing fairly well to be so young and not be in trouble financially."

Honey relies on social media to get the word out about her designs. You can check out her Facebook page here.

"I love what I do all day. I get to come to work and play with clothes all day."