DEBUT 2022 Student Served in US Army Prior to Attending FIDM
Born and raised in the coastal city of Douala in Cameroon, Africa, Thierry Kepgang Nana used fashion as a form of artistic expression from a young age, which posed a challenge due to cultural stigmas. “My environment was rarely receptive to my taste,” said Thierry, whose mother and sister worked as fashion designers. “I was considered rebellious and an outsider.” After moving to Los Angeles with $300 and a dream of studying fashion, Thierry enlisted in the US Army in 2018 and served in Field Artillery, but he couldn’t stop dreaming of a design career. Thierry is currently finishing his AA degree in Fashion Design at FIDM and was recently accepted into the Advanced Fashion Design Program for DEBUT 2022. We caught up with the designer to learn more about his unique journey.
When did you realize you were creative? Having a mom and sister as fashion designers should have made it easy for my acceptance in this path. Rather it was a mistake to follow my passion amongst our culture. They believed that fashion was a female thing to do and not for men; my family wouldn’t be supportive of fashion as my career. Although my family wasn’t supportive of me studying fashion as a career, my mom gave me the opportunity to learn the basics such as hand sewing and machine sewing with her. That opportunity is what makes me understand that fashion was my destiny.
Tell us about your experience serving in the military: Before my time in service, I never thought I would have enlisted into the US Army. My only dream was to move to LA for fashion and nothing else. The Army made me grow so much. It has given me a sense of family with the friends that I have made. It helped me further realize my dream of being a Fashion Design Student at FIDM. It was certainly not an amazing experience because of multiple challenges that I had faced.
How did you hear about FIDM? Before coming to FIDM or being in the military, I was a student at Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University. I had an amazing experience studying there, but I understood there weren't enough job opportunities or possibilities for a fashion designer in the city of Grand Rapids. I remember one of my professors was a graduate from FIDM, and that's who introduced me to FIDM’s LA campus.
What did it feel to be accepted to the prestigious DEBUT program? From all the things I have wished for in my life, after being able to go to school for Fashion Design, I never expected to be accepted into the DEBUT program. Not because I thought I was not a fit for the program, but because of what everyone told me: “You will not get anywhere with those silly dreams of yours.” I started to believe it, and almost lost hope. Looking back to all the challenges life put in front of me, to be accepted today into DEBUT here at FIDM, I can only think of one thing: “Life is a journey and not a destination.” Cause one thing is sure, DEBUT is just the beginning and not the end of my journey. Perhaps DEBUT is the beginning of the revelation of myself as a designer, but also the beginning of me finally understanding who I am in society and what my purpose or contribution is to our society with my talents.
Can you tell us a bit about the collection you'd like to design for DEBUT? I can’t wait to experience the transformation or transition my collection at DEBUT will bring into my life. I will say I am focusing on masks and faces. The reason my inspiration focuses on faces and masks is that growing up I always felt unhappy. I was always looking up into other people's faces to create my happiness. For example, if I happened to see someone happy, I would have auto transferred myself spiritually into that person's face, and feel instantly happy. So this collection will be dearly personal to me.
What do you love most about living in Los Angeles? To be honest, moving to LA may have been challenging and still is, but I am not regretting anything since LA allows me to be myself and feel myself without the worry of not belonging. Without the support of my best friend, LA would probably still be a dream for me. I am graduating with my AA degree in Fashion Design this September 2021. I can’t wait to study more and get my bachelor's to embrace all the opportunities along the way.
Anything else you’d like to share? I am grateful to the Army, my boyfriend, my family, friends, and workplace family (FIDM Student Veterans of America and my financial aid family) for the change and growth they have brought into my life. Every day my work family, boyfriend, friends, and family give me a reason to keep on pushing myself to the best. There are certainly more people I am grateful for such as my church family from Presbyterian Church of Lansing, Michigan, Auntie from Lansing and Texas, and my Uncle Christopher from France for giving me the moral support to be where I am today, doing what I love.