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The triumph of a blind clothing designer

Mason Ewing overcame more than just an inability to see.

MEAUX, France — The obvious impediment to Cyril Elong's success as a clothing designer is that he cannot see. But the blind creator of streetwear label Mason Ewing has won fame for incorporating Braille into his designs.

The less obvious impediment to Elong's success is the physical abuse he suffered as a young immigrant to France.

Elong testified against his great-aunt and great-uncle at their 2004 trial. The punishment they meted out when he wet the bed, did poorly in school or engaged in common adolescent mischief, he said, included having his head thrust against the bathtub, and pepper rubbed into his eyes and on his genitals.

The abuse Elong suffered during the five years he lived with them and did their chores, he said, had permanent consequences: He has been legally blind since age 15, when he woke up from a three-week coma induced by an epileptic fit.

But to spend any time hating his abusers or other relatives who did nothing to stop it would give them too much importance or publicity. Instead, he prefers to remain indifferent in the face of such “hypocrisy.”

“I’ve erased them from my life,” the now 27-year-old said. “For me, they don’t exist.”

Emerging from that period of trauma and turmoil, Elong created a company, started a foundation and transformed himself into Mason Ewing. The logo emblazoned across his T-shirts and tank tops is of a multi-cultural baby who engages in various activities, like skateboarding or golf. The Braille writing describes the activity and tells the color of the clothing.

Becoming a designer was a way for Elong, now known as Ewing, to be closer to his mother and to fulfill her dream. She was a designer and model in his native Cameroon but died when he was nearly 4 years old. Now, Ewing is pursuing his own dream of working in the cinema. He is developing a pilot for a television show inspired by the U.S. hit series “Malcolm in the Middle” in order “to do something atypical” that does not exist yet in France.

“Me, I don’t give up,” Ewing said from his apartment located about 25 miles from Paris. “I’m relentless; I fight like a titan.”