As details start trickling in, TRUE Africa continues to mourn the loss of those 157 passengers who were on board Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, which crashed on Sunday shortly after takeoff from Addis Ababa airport. Investigators from all over the world have arrived at the crash site, near Bishoftu, Ethiopia, but no discovery in the so-called black boxes that were recovered on Monday can help paint an accurate picture of the victims. One of our own, Djiboutian fashion designer Racha Farah, was a victim. We had profiledher in our TRUE Africa 100 section in December 2015, because we felt that she was one of those highly creative, highly accomplished women shaping the Africa of today.
I had met Racha Farah at Paris Black Fashion Week in 2015 as she presented her first collection there. When most designers were rolling out very impressive gowns cut from colorful and shiny fabrics, Racha stood out with her refreshing and sophisticated take on a businesswoman’s allure. Her designs were not meant for galas. Instead, she specialized in power suits a modern woman could wear to the office or to conferences. Hers were the types of outfits that would make you feel like you could secure any bag. That particular collection was inspired by a quote from Freud, “You can’t separate female from male.” I saw it as a powerful tribute to women, and their ability to look elegant even in masculine clothes.
At a time where women are speaking out more than ever, demanding that their voices be heard and supporting one another, Racha Farah embodied a new generation of female leadership that did not settle for success in just one industry. After a career in finance, she turned to fashion, her passion, and decided to make clothes for women who like her worked in a sector that sometimes strives on making women feel invisible. “It’s always so much easier for men to find a decent suit I feel,” she had complained to me on the phone during a follow-up interview. The last time we spoke, we promised each other that I would wear her designs some day.
That day may never come, but I will never forget Racha, her spirit, and her collections. I had met her when I was a young student in Europe. Witnessing her confidence and drive at that time was more than inspiring. She made an impact on me. Racha is marked in my memory forever as I am sure she is in the memories of those who were lucky enough to have met her. Her loss comes like a swift wind, and none of us were prepared for it. Our thoughts and prayers are with Racha and her family. She will not be forgotten.