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On April 5, 2019, at four o'clock, it was with nervous excitement I signed a document which formalized my change of life. I had just signed an amicable separation, with the bank that employed me. I felt extraordinarily free when I left the same office where, five years earlier, I had signed with immense joy my contract of employment. A few months ago, I would never have imagined such a scenario. So, it's official, I'm not a financial advisor but a fashion designer.
How it all stars
My name is Lynda Cazilhac, I was born thirty-four years ago in Ivory Coast, where my passion for fashion began. I remember that in October 1990, I was already modelling at a fashion show organized by my mother, who was a designer. I still have the memory of the audience amazed by the child I was, wearing a dress that I had seen my mother making.
Every Wednesday, after school, I went to her workshop. I played among sewing machines, looking for fabric falls with which I dressed my dolls. I was in awe of my mother when she advised her clients. I imagined myself in her place, preaching the word of elegance to an admiring audience. However, her ambitions for me were quite different, because sewing, like most manual trades, is not valued in Ivory Coast. For my mother, it was unthinkable for me to do the same job as her. I had to get a university qualification and work in an office. Unfortunately, many young Africans have experienced this kind of family pressure.
|When I was 5 years old, proud to wear a dress sewed by my mum!|
A few years later, in high school, I was the girl my friends sought out for advice on fashion. I loved that role! With excitement I explained the basics of fashion with the lexicon of a passionate teenager. Taking this role with the seriousness that motivates passion, I started a ready-to-wear business with my friends who constantly asked me where I bought my clothes.
After high school, I naturally did what was expected of me. I spent five years in business school studying finance and communication, obtained a master's degree in marketing and joined one of the leading banks in Abidjan as a financial executive. Most of my outfits were my designs and were often admired by my co-workers who loved my style.
I started giving advice to my co-workers as I had done years earlier with my classmates. With more knowledge in the field, my advice came with fashion lessons. Why are three-button jackets not suitable for all chest sizes? Which morphologies are suitable for gathered skirts? Why are cigarette pants not suitable for everybody? I also brought clothes from France, where my mother was now living to sell to my colleagues. I loved giving advice, and the satisfaction I had with my clients at the bank. Advising people to create financial wealth or help others to feels great by wearing good quality clothes. The purpose was the same: customer satisfaction.
War and exile
Life was normal until November 2010, when Ivory Coast entered a serious political crisis. One day in April 2011, war broke out. We lived under constant fire for ten consecutive days and nights. Abidjan, like the rest of the country was on fire. After the chaos that killed more than three thousand people, nothing was the same. In 2012, fearing for my safety, and with my soul bruised, I left my country, to take refuge with my mother in France.
This exile was a real break in my life. I left behind my family, my friends, my apartment, my job, in short, my life. This situation changed everything I had planned for. I had to adapt to my new environment.
In July 2012, I started a long battle to obtain the right to stay in France. Having: "Does not authorize its holder to work" on my provisional authorization card was the hardest thing. For me, working was the best way to integrate into French society. I did not know anyone in France except my mother and her friends. I felt socially excluded and lonely. There were good people who gave me strength but knowing I could be seen as an unemployed immigrant taking advantage of the French system was like a mill stone round my neck. The way people looked at an unemployed foreigner like me was hard to bear. I wanted to scream that being unemployed was not of my choice.
How fashion saved me
During this very difficult time, I clung to my passion for fashion as well as to God, in whom I believe. I drew dresses, I dreamed as a stylist, it was my way to escape my daily life. My mother agreed to pull out the sewing machine to make my creations. When I wore them, in the street, I was regularly stopped by people who complimented me.
I had begun the process of getting a residence permit that would allow me to work, but since the unemployment rate was peaking at this time, I felt that my chances of landing a job were low. I saw this situation as an opportunity to create my clothing brand. Not having the means to produce my clothes, I tried to contact professionals. I sent drawings to major fashion magazines. In April 2013, I received a response from the founder of an event company in the world of fashion. He proposed my participation in a contest during London "fashion week" in September 2013. (Cette phrase est implicite) The winner of the contest would have a platform in a major magazine, an exceptional showcase in the world of fashion. The immense joy that overwhelmed me on reading this message was wiped out in a few seconds when I realized that my residence permit did not allow me to leave French territory! I had the impression of losing an exceptional opportunity that would have help me get back on track.My administrative situation had become unbearable. I wanted to work; why wasn't I working?
Work as the basis for social integration
After two years of endless waiting, and when I had given up hope, I finally received my residence permit. I started looking for work. In just three months when unemployment was at its highest, I picked up a long term contract for a banking group. My life changed dramatically. This job in my area of expertise would allow me to get my life back. Life finally seemed to be smiling at me.
This is precisely what happened. My life changed with the job. I felt useful to society and integrated. Through the warm welcome my colleagues gave me; France opened its my arms to me. I loved my job; I was radiant and felt great. The job allowed me to meet new people and start making friends. Although I still lived with my mother, I was now financially independent. Then I met love, the man who would become my husband two years later, in September 2017.
I managed to thwart all the doom mongers: my fight as an immigrant to get a place in society, my determination to find a job had allowed me to sign a contract, and my joy at having met an exceptional man. Being a true believer, I had everything I wanted. Thanks be to God!
The beginning of bad times
With the time, I slowly lost my desire to work at the bank. My life began in the evening when I left my office and stopped in the morning when I left home. I no longer recognized myself as a financial advisor. The ever-elevated objectives, the hierarchical pressure, the negation of human values in favor of the organization; The banking field that I loved so much had no place in this system.
A happy event would allow me to forget the darkness: one month after our wedding, we were expecting a baby, I was happy. During my parental leave, my joy was total. I was alive. All the lights were green. After the birth of our son, things became more clear! He gave me an inexplicable strength. I could not allow myself to cry at night on my way back to this adorable human being. I wanted to be happy at all levels. What made me happiest besides my family? Help others, draw and create clothes. With all the support of my husband, I decided to push the door of the world of fashion in a concrete way.
After my son's birth, I took a parental leave of six months that allowed me to mature my project, which is to showcase African textile crafts in my creations. I had six months to put myself in the shoes of a designer and see if I could work with artisans five thousand miles from home. In September 2018, encouraged by my husband, my child in my arms and with my mother at my side, I went to Paris to discover one of the largest fashion shows in the world. In the middle of the two thousand exhibitors, I felt very small. All this was new to me and I did not feel legitimate at that time because I had never been to fashion school. At first hesitant to approach the stands, I finally did so, and, after a few hours, I began to relax. When I returned from Paris, I created the company while still on parental leave. My decision was made, I wanted to turn my passion into my job.
I gave up the day job on May 1, 2019 and am now a fashion designer. Mother, wife and happy entrepreneur, I am now presenting my first collection to you. It comes from deep within my soul. It is called “AYO”, which means "thank you" in Bété, the language of one of the sixty ethnic groups of Ivory Coast to which I belong. Thanks to whom? Thanks be to God, thanks to you who took time to start the adventure with me. Thanks to my family and friends. Thanks to life. The adventure begins, the dream takes shape. See you soon !
Fière de toi ! On attend avec impatience la sortie de ta collection ! Bisous !
Tu as et auras toujours mes encouragements ! Hâte d’être au lancement de la collection. Bisous
Bravo pour votre combat! On a hâte de découvrir votre collection!