Podcast: Mossi Traoré of Mossi reveals his socially engaged fashion vision
In this new episode of the LuxurynsightXFashionNetwork podcast series (in French), Mossi Traoré talks with Godfrey Deeny, global editor-in-chief of FashionNetwork.com, about his fashion career, the challenges he has faced and the inspirations for his ready-to-wear collections.
Traoré tells the story of his early days in fashion: from his diploma in styling and modelling from Parisian school Mod’Art International in 2005, to his first collections, designed in 2011 with Wei Zhen, a friend he met at university. Then about his shows on the official Paris fashion week calendar, under the aegis of Didier Grumbach, president of the French Federation of haute couture, ready-to-wear and fashion designers from 1998 to 2014, and also about the financial difficulties that forced Traoré to put his career on hold for three years.
Fashion with a social dimension
“After this first experience, which was something of a failure for me, because I wasn’t ready, I undertook a long journey, a long pilgrimage to learn the craft, better understand it and eventually master it,” said Traoré. “Then I came back with my eponymous label, and with plans to set up a school, to create fashion with a social dimension,” he added.
Mali-born Traoré, 38, founded Mossi, a socially engaged women's ready-to-wear label rooted in Paris’s underprivileged suburbs, the banlieu, in 2018. In 2020, Traoré was awarded the ANDAM’s Pierre Bergé prize. A few months later, he moved his atelier to the headquarters of Paris Habitat, an organization that develops public housing in France.
“Staging a show at a social housing hub was a way to demonstrate that a kid from the banlieu can do something nice and make his voice heard in fashion [...] It was a tribute to where I come from and who I am,” said Traoré. “Linking business and social engagement, for me it’s the future,” he added, underlining he likes to “take fashion to places where it doesn’t usually go.”
Traoré’s avant-garde creations feature many fabric innovations (such as sustainable fibres extracted from milk unfit for human consumption) and references to societal themes. For example, the collection he presented at Paris Fashion Week in October 2022 delivered his take on the uniforms of the road sweepers and garbage collectors who keep the city of Paris clean on a daily basis.
Democratizing haute couture
In parallel with his fashion career, Traoré, a former costume maker at the Paris National Opera, has launched a community fashion school called Les Ateliers Alix, located in the Hautes-Noues neighbourhood in Villiers-sur-Marne where he grew up, as well as the Les Ateliers Parisiens association.
Both are vocational schools where students are trained in the techniques and skills typical of haute couture: embroidery, corsetry, garment decoration, etc. They reflect Traoré’s own couture apprenticeship after he left school, when he worked first for an Indian seamstress based near Paris’s Gare du Nord, then for an African garment maker with a workshop in the banlieu.
Referencing diversity, inclusivity and African fashion, Traoré talks in the podcast about his multi-faceted, multi-generational project, driven by his desire to fight social disparity in underprivileged communities, as well as to connect fashion with art, notably by staging art performances before his shows.
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