The fashion industry in Liberia is fast developing and becoming one of the most viable sectors of the country's economy. And as such, each day, a new batch of talented designers are springing up and catering to the ever-evolving needs, tastes and styles of the public.
And one of these promising fashion designers is 17 year old Massa Lovetee Gray, who use recycle materials like cloths to make her shoes and slippers.
Gray, who is a 12th grader at the Spiritan Academy, started designing just about a month ago, yet her shoes and slippers defy seasons and trends, and appeals to all manner of clientele.
This aspect of her creativity is arguably what makes her products (Iola Designs) one of the most sort after by fashion lovers as it blends street fashion and high fashion to appeal everyone.
Some of Massa Lovetee Gray's designs
"Fashion means a lot to me. I try to think outside of the box to make sure my designs stand out. I know I'm not the only doing such designs, but the creativity I added to my products makes them unique.
"I started designing my product early in November after noticing that fashion lovers were in need of new designs. Before then, the idea came from the blue sky. I think it is God-given and it came at the right time because I was thinking of going into business after high school," she said.
Since the day she discovered her talent, she has gone on to produce over 1,5O0 piece of slippers and shoes that have brought a little over L$67,500. But making this money comes with lots of challenges: creating time between school and work; working with bare hands - no machines or electricity for her work; and getting the kinds of material that she desires.
"This is more than a challenge. And in most cases, I have to work on my designs during the weekend cause that's the only time I have to work. Even during that period, it is still a challenge because I do have school work and I have to study as well. Getting the right materials sometimes is challenging as well. However, as a young and determined entrepreneur who wants to succeed, I don't like that challenge to hold me back," she said, adding "I don't just go for any material. I go for the best ones so that the shoes and slippers I make can embody today's woman's desire for sexy products that look elegant, that allows her to step into the world - wherever that might be - feeling and looking confident."
Although she does not own a company, she has started to train a few girls in her community as a means of empowerment and getting them livelihood.
"Before I go to university to pursue a degree in fashion, I intend to establish my company that will employ only girls. I think girl children are the most vulnerable in the society and I want to give them an opportunity to earn a living. It hurts to see so many of my peers out there doing some crazy things just to survive," she said.
Meanwhile, Gray is hoping to host an official fashion fair to launch her brand, with the funds raised going directly into renting and purchasing equipment for Iola Designs.