By Kalya Hutchinson

  • Tell our readers about Melissa Issa-Boube

I graduated from Emory University where I double majored in neuroscience and French Studies. After Emory, I received my master’s in biology from Georgia State University and a Graduate Certificate in Public Health. Mena Mode serves as my break from the sciences. I have full control and creativity over the outcome of a product.  My clothing line allows me to take my ideas, sketch them on paper, and create them with the sewing machine. This realm of creativity is empowering, because I can control anything from the fabric, the cut, the fit, etc. I became interested in fashion when I started modeling in Atlanta. Modeling, however, does not allow the same degree of control as designing and sewing. After walking in a few fashion shows, I decided to try and make my own clothes with fabrics laying around the house. From a simple pencil skirt, I was able to make a dress. I showcased my pieces at Taste of Africa at Emory and the positive feedback led me to start my clothing line, Mena Mode.

 

  • What genre of fashion would you say best describes your designs?

My designs fall into the category of edgy glam. I like that you can wear the sets separately or pair them with distressed jeans and some cute heels. I like to mix contemporary designs with traditional Ankara fabrics, but I am looking to expand to other textiles in the future. I also enjoy incorporating removable tulle into my designs that can take an outfit from 0 to 100.

 

  • How do you see your designs impacting fashion in Atlanta and beyond?

My designs have the capability of introducing the Atlanta community to fabrics and designs from Niger. Traditionally, culture is shared through language, but Mena Mode makes this possible through fashion! I think that my designs have already changed the game as I see many non-African designers starting to experiment with Ankara fabrics and also adding tulle to their collections. Everything in fashion is inspired by a predecessor so it’s cool to see the trends coming full circle.

 

  • Based on what you have learned so far in your journey what are some do’s and don’t’s that you would give fellow emerging designers?

DO:

  • Get a website – do not rely on customers to “email for pricing”. Have your designs displayed with clear pricing.
  • Make short videos – Videos are the most effective marketing tool for me because I like to tell a short story with my clothes. I post all these videos on YouTube which creates an even larger following.
  • Say yes to daunting opportunities – I was worried about doing my first show out of state in Alabama. However, the show was a hit and one of the most successful vending events.
  • Get on all social platforms – It is important to have a strong digital footprint on the web when it comes to branding.
  • Be interactive and follow your followers back – you ain’t Beyonce!
  • Reach out to fashion blogs and magazines – Submit pics of your work. Most will not respond, but few will, and till will increase the digital footprint of your brand.
  • Start your own blog – I have a “Mena Moves” series on my site that blogs about each fashion show that I attend. I include pictures of the events.
  • Have a strong support system – My mom and my sister are brutally honest and it has fostered my growth.
  • Feel free to take breaks – designing takes A LOT of creative energy and you have to be on the right wave to create that masterpiece. If you are not in the mood to create, take the needed mental break and seek inspiration. I like to follow random fashion accounts on Instagram for inspiration.

DON’T:

  • Doubt yourself – Who cares if everyone is starting a clothing line. This is not a reason to not start yours. That is why we have Walmart, Publix, Kroger, and Kmart. Your brand will have your specific customer base that will appeal to that group once you establish the brand DNA.
  • Delay making decisions – I have the tendency to sit on an idea for months and mull over the details and logistics. Then the optimal time passes and I miss the opportunity.
  • Sell yourself short – Many people will try to get you to work for free or reduced price. Know your worth and the value of your craftsmanship.

 

How is your brand igniting social change?

In the summer of 2017, I applied to the Clinton Global Initiative to connect with other people interesting in social change. My initiative was accepted and thus began Mena Mode’s WIN-Initiative. WIN represents the “Women’s Initiative in Niger” and we are aiming to tackle development goals set by the United Nations. We are working to alleviate: poverty, education, and economic growth by raising funds to build a school in Niger. Here, women will learn fashion design, parental education, and economics. Upon graduation, they will not only receive a sewing machine but also be able to sell their designs in our marketplace. Nigerien culture is not very well known, so having the name of the country on the clothing tags prompts customers to learn about the beauty of Niger. I use my platform to bring awareness to the issues that disproportionally plague Niger women such as poverty and education. In addition, each purchase is used to help build a school in Niger where women will learn three facets of home economics and eventually begin their own businesses. Help #WIN www.menamode.com/WIN

Below are visuals:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q0bkn7y-Ru0

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Usvx9Fnra68

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LE_nlK2b69w