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Cameroon diary


February 3, 2014

cameroon-1

Here’s what went down when our fashion director Bronwyn Day visited Cameroon’s bustling city of Yaoundé for last year’s K-Walk fashion show and our GLAMOUR shoot.

Day 1

Planning a shoot is often hectic, but this one is seriously crazy. I’ve had the yellow-fever jab and the last-minute rush to get a visa; now I need to pack the 23kg of designer clothing we’re planning to use on our shoot into a single suitcase – talk about a challenge! My hand luggage is jammed with jewellery, and what clothes I can take are going into the suitcase of our photographer, Jonathan Taylor.

Day 2

Today we set off for Cape Town airport and the three long flights that will get us to Cameroon – Cape Town to Joburg, Joburg to Douala and Douala to Yaoundé. Finally, we reach the inland city of Yaoundé, with its teeming motorbikes, droves of yellow cabs, street-side fruit sellers, rusty trucks, herds of goats, and local beauties in colourful dresses, all set against a vista of green hills. It’s noisy, busy and hot, and walking into the grand, air-conditioned lobby of the Hilton Hotel feels like arriving at a cool oasis. “Welcome to Cameroon,” says a sophisticated French woman in killer Louboutins. This is Anna Ngann Yonn, Cameroonian fashion designer and the dynamo behind the K-Walk 2013 event, a fashion show that mixes Anna’s 10-year-old designer brand Kreyann’ with Parisian haute couture by Stéphane Rolland, luxury Italian shoes by René Caovilla and menswear by SA designer Shaldon Kopman of Naked Ape. Designed to bring glamour and international fashion to Cameroon, a country yearning to express its passion for style, this event has been Anna’s vision for the past three years. And as you can imagine, it’s a hot ticket on Yaoundé’s social circuit.

Anna introduces us to her super-helpful team and we chat about the exciting press schedule for the following few days. Right now, though, Jonathan and I are itching to hit the streets to find locations for our shoot. Our model, Nala, is flying in from Paris later and we’re planning to start early the next morning. Alain Ngann, a local fashion photographer, rushes us around the city so we can find settings for our collection of fabulous clothing by leading SA and African designers. Excited (and rather sweaty), we return to the hotel to shower. Then, dressed in a hand-dyed West by Nicola West frock, Pichulik necklace and Adriaan Kuiters + Jody Paulsen sandals, I’m ready for the press conference and presentation by French designer Stéphane Rolland, who’s come from Paris to support the initiative and show some of his work. It’s all in French, so I’m grateful for our interpreter – but I soon find myself saying ‘bonsoir’ and ‘bonne nuit’ at every opportunity!

Day 3

The first knock on my door is at 6am. It’s our model Nala, all long limbs and beaming smile. She’s followed by hair stylist Claude Rousseau and makeup artist Lala Soumahoro, both of whom set to work, making Nala look even lovelier than ever. Then, loaded up on coffee, Jonathan and I make the final tweaks to our rail of clothes, pack up for our shoot and hit the streets of Yaoundé.

By 9am we’re sweaty, smiling and two shots down. What follows after this is a haze of traffic jams, loitering crowds (they love our sexy model), kids running alongside our car and incredible equatorial light. We rush in and out, change Nala’s outfits as fast as we can, chase after the perfect shot and eat masses of French fries and baguettes. All in all, a hot, hard day – and a true career high!

Day 4

After the craziness of yesterday’s shoot, it’s a thrill to have time to explore Yaoundé, and what a treat to be taken by our chic press liaison officer, Malou Zogo, to the city market, where we can shop for traditional Cameroonian dresses and cloth. The choice is incredible and it takes ages to settle on my favourite – a beautiful blue and white floral print dress. We haggle over our purchases, drink local rum, get caught in the rain and devour deep-fried plantains (small bananas) – my new favourite flavour! Then it’s time for the glittering highlight, the K-Walk show. I’m thrilled and proud to be wearing SA designers – a Loin Cloth & Ashes dress and Kirsten Goss Arcade earrings. Jonathan and I sneak backstage to photograph the models being powdered, pinned and primped, and we can feel the excitement in the air. The K-Walk event is an important step for fashion in Cameroon, as well as another encouraging sign of the many ways in which African fashion is growing.

And what a wonderful show it turns out to be – a sumptuous display of designer footwear and fashion on a unique, wavy catwalk, dreamt up by the renowned Jan Malan of Umzingeli Productions. The showstopping Kreyann’ collection features metallic mesh, seductive silks and a palette of natural greens, yellows and browns – much like the Cameroon landscape, the inspiration for Anna’s creations. At the end of it all, we all leap to our feet. A standing ovation is the least of what Anna deserves for her dynamic and pioneering spirit. Bravo! The afterparty, which is held around the pool at the Hilton Hotel, is a real buzz. Conversation and Moët flow with ease. The crowd is sexy, the local music energetic and the vibe exotic.

Day 5

It’s hard to bid farewell to Cameroon after our adventure, but we also havea lot of travelling ahead of us. We enjoy our final breakfast buffet, swap business cards with newfound friends and kiss one another goodbye. Then it’s time to board the bus and head for Yaoundé airport.

As the plane takes off, I cast my mind over it all, from our arrival on the dusty roads and bustling streets to the glitzy guests at the fashion show. My time in this wonderful, warm country has been amazing. And the few words of French I’ve learnt seem totally appropriate. Merci Cameroon! Merci Anna and the K-Walk! C’était très bon!

Text: Bronwyn Day; Images: Jonathan Taylor and Bronwyn Day

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