After a 2 year hiatus... we're back!
I shut down this blog a few months before moving back to Cameroon as part of a rebranding phase and never got back to it. Seeing as this is my first post in over 2 years, I'll start off with a brief introduction to myself and the brand, and what we've been up to the last 2 years.
I grew up in the U.K (Chelmsford, Essex) and Lagos, Nigeria (I'm part Nigerian), before moving to Cameroon in January 1998. I later moved to Nairobi, Kenya for high school after a nightmarish 4 ½ years in boarding school in Cameroon, and I can honestly say moving to Nairobi changed my life.
I've been drawing since I was about 4 years old and was obsessed with comics and animation as a kid. Living in Nigeria as an artistically inclined kid was great because art is encouraged and taught in schools. Moving to Cameroon almost killed off my love for art. It wasn't taught in schools and was considered a waste of time by most adults I had the misfortune of running into (besides my class 6 teacher Mr Nsame, he was pretty dope).
Moving to Kenya in 2005 was a turning point simply because it was the first time in years I was around people who appreciated art and creativity. It was during this time I read about streetwear brands like ECKO, Sean John, LRG, ENYCE and Phat Farm. Reading about how these brands started got me interested in design. I had a talk with my career counselor (yes, schools in Kenya have career counselors), and he suggested I study business if I ever wanted to run my own label.
In my 3rd year studying International Business at the University of the West of England, I moved to Nice, France, where I met Albert Goldberg. He founded French brand Faconnable, and Albert Arts and had been knighted by the French government for his achievements in fashion. I also met designers from Balenciaga, The Kooples, and LV. I spent the summer of 2010 in Boston, New York and Montreal, visiting well known stores and brands like Goliath, Kid Robot, Supreme, and DKNY. I took another research trip to Italy in 2011, meeting with designers from various brands and getting an insight into the business side of the fashion industry. All this gave me valuable insight into the design world and confidence in my abilities as a designer.
The brand as it is now really started off in 2012, while I was finishing my Masters degree in International Management at U.W.E. It was then I started to get involved in the art scene in Bristol as a creative consultant, doing work for Red Bull, GHD, concept store/art gallery ThreeNine&Friends, clothing brand Reiss. I also had my illustrations showcased at an exhibition at the Grant Bradley Gallery, and started working with a host of music artists including Nitty Scott, Andy Allo (NY and LA respectively), Storm, Allegra and Genie Marie (U.K).
In 2014 I made the decision to return to Cameroon. Why? Well I felt the fashion industry in Cameroon was supremely underdeveloped, with a lot of amateurs masquerading as professionals and gifted ambitious creatives with no direction and no one really showing an example as to how to operate a clothing brand. There was (and still is) no synergy between the fashion industry and other industries. You only have to look at how our musicians dress to realise this. Our award shows reflect this as well as none of these personalities are dressed by Cameroonian designers. Neither are any of our sport teams. Rather than stay in the UK and launch criticisms like long distance missiles, I wanted to come back and be the example I felt the industry lacked.
Moving back I had a plan: stay low, don't be loud/obnoxious, and just work. You don't see me in photos with “celebrities” simply because that's not part of what our brand stands for.
“strive for recognition in the industry above fame from the public” is the best advice I ever got from a designer at London Fashion Week. Recognition by those within the industry is what will get you far. It's the reason why I'm not too fussed about dressing Cameroonian “celebrities”, or being seen in photos with them. I started this blog to tell my story, seeing as bloggers/media in Cameroon don't seem to have a clear grasp of what their job entails. As an example: we had our debut show in December 2015 and sent out invites to media and no one was polite enough to even reply. Things work differently here it seems, and that isn't a great thing. I've lived in 9 different countries and the way the industry operates in Cameroon is quite detrimental to all involved. I'll save my critique on the Cameroon fashion industry for later.
So what have we done since moving back? We had a successful debut show at La Falaise, Yaounde in December 2015 and in August 2016 we opened our showroom in Bastos, Yaounde. The industry recognition we aimed for has started to manifest heavily. We are the first Cameroonian based brand invited to Africa Fashion Week London in 2016. 2017 saw us attend Ankara Fashion Week Miami (1st Cameroonian based brand) and Africa Fashion Week Lagos. We've also been invited to Nairobi Fashion Week, and Angola International Fashion, and will be showcasing at both later this year. We have an invite to the World Fashion Show and Expo in Paris, which we may have to decline due to conflicting dates with Nairobi Fashion Week, and have offers from stores in New York (Berenik) and Bermuda (Urban Cottage) to stock our pieces.
So there you go. We'll continue to give updates on our moves in this blog, including reflections on the fashion industry in Cameroon and advice on the business of fashion.
Until then, stay focused, stay humble, work smart.