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Michael Trah | Ivory Coast | Stay True To Your Vision

Fashion Designer | Stylist | Fashion Strategist

I am a young Ivorian designer named Michael Trah, born in the town of Port-Bouet. Initially, I was passionate about computers, but I arrived in the fashion industry under pressure from my mother, who always dreamed of seeing me exercise this profession. I accepted to follow a fashion training in 2012 to please her. Unfortunately, she passed away in 2013 before seeing me evolve in the field, which was a difficult moment for me. Moved by emotions, I decided to pay tribute to my mother by continuing in this vein. I gave myself entirely to fashion and trained at the MAISON DU STYLE in Port-Bouet. Later, I did a professional internship with Gisèle Bolaty to improve my skills. In 2017, I gathered all my savings and flew to Nigeria to follow a 9-month training course in ready-to-wear sewing. After completing my training, I returned to Ivory Coast in December 2017 and applied for the MASA fashion show. I presented my first collection on the occasion of MASA MODE 2018, which was entirely financed by my childhood friends who still encourage me. It was during the big evening of MASA MODE 2020 where I had the opportunity to present a collection in the presence of the Minister of Culture Maurice Bandaman and certain personalities of Ivorian fashion, such as Gilles Touré, Isabelle Anoh, Reda Fawaz, Isabelle Moreno, and Habib Sangaré.

As a young stylist, I am honored to have been nominated for the Top of Ivorian fashion in the young designer category for the last 2018 edition, and I also won 3rd place in the LES ROIS DU CISEAU competition in 2018. African fashion makes sense because we export well thanks to African materials and fabrics. For me, African fashion is a creative way to highlight our heritage.Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, I was unable to participate in an international parade to which I was invited. But, thanks to the power of social networks, I was able to reach people internationally who liked my work and my audacity on certain pieces. I draw my inspiration from my background and goals. I also have a deep admiration for Gilles Touré, who has been at the heart of African fashion for more than 20 years and continues to be an excellent example of a career in creativity. I also respect all these Ivorian designers who have made me dream since 2011 and who are still in trend.

What were the biggest initial hurdles you faced and how did you overcome them?

As a young Ivorian designer born in the town of Port-Bouet, I faced several initial hurdles when I started my journey in the fashion industry. One of the biggest hurdles was the pressure from my mother to pursue a career in fashion. At first, I only accepted to follow a fashion training in 2012 to please her. However, unfortunately, she passed away in 2013, and it was a challenging moment for me emotionally. But, I decided to pay tribute to her by continuing in this field and giving myself entirely to fashion. Another hurdle was the lack of financial resources to fund my fashion collections. I was fortunate enough to have childhood friends who supported me financially and encouraged me to keep going. Another major hurdle was the lack of exposure and recognition as a young stylist. There are few fashion award events for young stylists, and it was challenging to make a name for myself in the industry. However, I overcame this by participating in various fashion shows and competitions, such as MASA MODE and LES ROIS DU CISEAU, where I was able to showcase my talent and creativity.

Lastly, the COVID-19 pandemic posed a significant challenge for me as it prevented me from participating in an international parade to which I was invited. But, I was able to overcome this hurdle by leveraging the power of social media to reach a wider audience and showcase my work to people internationally.

Overall, I overcame these hurdles by persevering, staying true to my passion, and surrounding myself with a supportive community that believed in me and my vision.

What advice do you have for young people locally and internationally who are just starting out in their careers or pursuing their passions?

As someone who has faced many challenges and obstacles on my path to becoming a successful fashion designer, my advice for young people locally and internationally who are just starting out in their careers or pursuing their passions is to never give up on your dreams and to always believe in yourself.

Here are a few more specific pieces of advice:

Be persistent: Pursuing your passion can be difficult and there may be times when you feel discouraged or like giving up. But, it's important to remember that persistence is key. Keep pushing forward, even when faced with challenges.

Keep learning: No matter how much you know or how successful you become, there is always more to learn. Keep educating yourself, taking courses, reading books, and seeking out mentorship opportunities.

Network: It's important to build a network of supportive and like-minded people who can help you achieve your goals. Attend industry events, join professional organizations, and connect with others in your field.

Be true to yourself: Don't try to be someone you're not in order to fit in or please others. Stay true to your vision, your values, and your unique perspective. This is what will set you apart and make you successful in the long run.

Take risks: Pursuing your passion often involves taking risks and stepping outside of your comfort zone. Don't be afraid to take chances and try new things. You never know what opportunities might come your way.

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