Friday, September 12, 2008


To say I was shocked at Imane’s response would be an understatement – I nearly fell off my chair when I received his reply. As far as I was concerned, I thought he was going to say, thanks, but no thanks to doing the interview! For someone who had worked with top designers and photographers, even journalists, the crème de la crème so to speak, I thought he was just going to take a look at my blog and think what the heck? But his response of “yes” was a pleasant surprise and it filled me with excitement. I guess he bought the concept of what this blog is all about. No matter the level in whatever you are doing, if you are approached, I think it is good to be nice and to be helpful in what ever way you can.
Nice one Imane!
Imane Ayissi was born in Cameroon and arrived in France in the 90’s. This lover of fabrics has tailored himself a strong reputation among the Afro-Caribbean community as a reputable designer. During his modelling years, he fronted adverts with companies such as Gap, Motorola, Gitanes etc and also worked with photographers such as Pascal Barin, Marc Robin, Alain Herman etc. The photographer Elias took a series of photos with Imane wearing luxurious jewelleries from designers such as Van Cleef & Arpels, Christian Dior, Cartier, Chanel, Bulgari etc These pictures were published in French fashion magazines and also presented in an exhibition in Paris. He has also posed for a series of paintings by Sasmayoux.
Here below is our little chat…..happy reading!
DC: What is your favourite colour and why?
IA: Black is my favourite colour because everybody can wear black, any where and at any time a little black dress is appropriate. What you see when you are dressed in black is your “silhouette” and the architecture of the clothes.

DC: How did you get into fashion modelling?
IA: I worked a little bit as a model in Cameroon. I worked in fashion shows of African designers such as Blaz design, Made Jong etc…
When I arrived in Paris I tried to get work with modelling agencies, but it was not easy so I started as a free-lance model. I did a few shows and took a few pictures and it was later that some agencies were ok to work with me. That’s how I started.
DC: Did you know much about fashion modelling before moving to Paris?
IA: I knew quite a lot about modelling when I was living in Yaoundé because I was very interested in fashion and modelling. So I used to read a lot of French magazines about fashion, articles and interviews about successful models… I knew already the “physical” conditions needed to work as a model. I knew how important modelling agencies were. I knew already that being beautiful in itself was not enough to work as a model, you needed a strong personality and something a little bit different…

DC: Who are your favourite fashion designers?
IA: I love two kinds of designers, I still love the “old couture” designers like Christian Dior, the great Yves Saint Laurent, Cristobal Balenciaga, Vionnet, Gianfranco Ferré, Azzedine Alaïa… but I also love new or more “revolutionary” designers like Galliano, Rei Kawakubo, Nicolas Ghesquière at Balenciaga, Martin Margiela, Haider Ackermann and among African designers Chris Seydou (who is unfortunately dead) Xuly Bet, Duro Olowu, Ozwald Boateng…

DC: Why?
IA: They are all different but they have all brought a little something into fashion history and in the way we are dressing now. Some of them are great “fashion architects” like Dior, Balenciaga, Alaïa, Claude Montana and Vionnet. Others are more intellectual and have changed our way of thinking in fashion, for example Rei Kawakubo at Comme des Garçons and Martin Margiela. I like Chris Seydou, Xuly Bet and Duro Olowu (who is based in London) because they know how to mix African culture and European fashion.

DC: What was the best photo shoot or catwalk you ever did? Why?
IA: I have good memories of all the fashion shows I did because all the designers were different but interesting. What was important to me was to wear and show off nice and different garments.
The best pictures I took are maybe not for fashion or for adverts, but merely artistic pictures. When there is an objective or a message about the picture and when something happens with the photographer; for example I love the pictures taken by Elias with jewelleries. Even though they were pictures for Cartier, Chanel, Boucheron or van Cleef & Arpel they were far more than fashion pictures because they portrayed a story about the fusion of the natural body (mine) and these marvellous stones. They carried the story of light and shadow and the body used as an “objet d’art and also about an ephemeral body and eternal stones. I also took nice pictures with Marc Robin for the Lyon Biennale d’Art, and it tried to recreate an ancient African atmosphere in these pictures with old traditional jewelleries and make up made with clay.
DC: And your worst? Why?
IA: My worst memory was a photo shoot I had with the model Estelle Hallyday for Femme Magazine. I think the casting was not appropriate. I don’t know why, but all the pictures were cancelled and have never been published… It’s a shame because she was a very important model at the time…

DC: Was the transition from Model to designer easy?
IA: No not easy because being a designer is a very hard job but when I was working as a model I was thinking about fashion design all the time. Being a model helped me to know how the fashion world worked and it helped me to know about clothes and to meet important fashionable people in the fashion industry. But of course it is not the same job at all…

DC: Did you have to do a fashion design course?
IA: No I learned by myself, of course taking a design course would have helped me to start but what is important is to be creative.

DC: That’s true, creativity and passion is where it starts from.
IA: Yes!

DC: As a male model, did you have much pressure to watch your weight?
IA: Not at all! I never took care of my weight and it’s because I was and am very lucky and I thank Mother Nature that I can eat what I want and I don’t put on weight easily. However, for some other models there was pressure but I think that it was not as bad as for female models.
DC: Talk us through your fashion collections.
IA: They are all different but there is a theme, a story for each collection. I’m more into the European even the French fashion tradition but I try to integrate a touch of African culture in them even if it’s sometimes not obvious but it is more in the way I cut some dresses and things like that. I try to avoid the African cliché.
The last collection was called “Next Queens” and it was a kind of a tribute to every woman on the planet in a way I wanted to say that every woman is kind of a queen.

DC: As a young child, what did you aspire to be when you grew up?
IA: As a little child I did not have an easy life so I didn’t think so much about my future, but I already used to draw women’s silhouette on the sand!

DC: Do you have any goals? What are they?
IA: Just to be myself!

DC: Considering most African parents want their children to be doctors, lawyers and accountants, how did your parents feel when you told them about your career?
IA: When I was a young child I couldn’t say anything, I just had to obey. So I didn’t ask for permission, I did slowly what I wanted to do. It’s a shame that some parents want to decide their children‘s life. Everybody can’t be a doctor or a lawyer we need also artists or something else in the world even though it may not be easy. Artists are also very important for the economy of great countries! Just think about the rock industry in Great Britain, the Cinema industry in the USA or the Fashion industry in France…

DC: Were your parents and your family excited then about your career?
IA: Now I think they are quite proud of me…

DC: What is the most exciting place(s) you have been in your career?
IA: There are different places: Japan because it is so different than Africa or Europe and it is also very disorientating. Canada because Canadian people are very nice and open minded. France, of course because of its elegant way of life, its beautiful monuments and its history which is still very present today. I went for the first time to Nairobi in May, and I really did appreciate the efficiency of the people in that country. It was a little bit like in Europe and it’s rare for an African country. I was invited to participate in a big fashion show in the middle of a great national park, among lions, it was so exciting that was a great memory…

DC: What has inspired you in your life?
IA: Nature, nice people, various parts of the world, Africa, nice and bad things, because even in bad things you can find beauty.

DC: What did you enjoy most, dancing or modelling?
IA: It depends of the state of my mind. I don’t prefer one or the other as they are two important parts of my life. However, I cannot be a model forever, it’s a job for young people and that’s why I am now a designer.

DC: “Millang Mi Ngore, Histoires du soir” your book that you wrote in the Ewondo language. What is it about?
IA: I wrote this book in French but with some words or sentences in Ewondo (that I usually translate). It is about a fairytale, an African fairytale. I wrote about an old Africa, an Africa of many, many years ago, though I didn’t know much about it I tried to imagine it. It was also a way of “promoting” the Ewondo language which is my native language.

DC: Your sister is Chantal Ayissi, the famous singer. Did you ever fight when you were growing up?
IA: Yes like every children but now we are adults and it is different!

DC: Is she proud to have a brother like you?
IA: I don’t know, ask her the question!

DC: Is there any competition between you two?
IA: For me not at all as we have two very different jobs and even if we had the same job we are also very different individuals so there is no competition. Generally I don’t have a “competititive mind”. We are all different and there is a place for everybody. If there is competition, it is between me and myself. I always to try to do better than I already did.

DC: Do you think Cameroonians are very fashion conscious?
IA: I don’t think so. They like to show off fashion brands but they don’t try to understand what’s beautiful or new or interesting in the fashion industry. Wearing Dolce & Gabbana or Vuitton’s total look doesn’t mean you are fashion conscious, especially when you don’t know if it is real or a fake.

DC: This is true!

DC: What is the next level for Imane Ayissi, fashion designer?
IA: You will see when it arrives..

DC: Ok!

DC: Would you be opening a grand store in Cameroon?
IA: It is possible but it is not so easy, so let’s see what happens..

DC: Right.

DC: Would you be going into perfumes, shoes and handbag designs as well?
IA: Of course it would be nice, but to create perfumes or handbags, you need money to develop the products, organise commercial exhibitions…etc. If there are investors out there who want to help me to develop my business, of course I’m open to offers….

DC: Great.

DC: Would you ever have a fashion show in Cameroon?
IA: Yes, I have had quite a lot there. The last one was at the Hilton Hotel in Yaoundé during the “First Class” trades fair.

DC: How were the fashion shows you did in Yaounde received by the public there? What were their comments?
IA: I think people loved it each time I did the shows in Yaoundé or Douala beacause they could maybe see something a little bit different from what they used to. My style is a mix of French "elegance" and African culture and as a former model I could coach the models showing them how to walk in a modern way taking into account the music etc. So I think that each time I did the shows, I brought a little bit of the "Parisian mood" with my shows. The comments in newspapers or on televisions and even the comments from people I met on the streets or those I received on my website have always been nice and kind.
On the other hand I think people in Africa don't see my shows as in Paris. African people are used to seeing fashion shows as entertainment, like a kind of ballet or variety show. They are used to paying to see them but as for me I want people who see my show to appreciate the clothes and their design and to buy them and wear them... I would rather prefer less nice comments and more customers!

DC: What is your advice to someone who is thinking of pursuing a modelling career?
IA: Everybody wants to be a model nowadays. When you say to someone you are nice, he or she thinks he or she can be a model. There are few people who can work as a model. You need to have a very special body and have something different about you. You also need to understand what designers and magazines want and you need to be very conscious that it’s a very hard job.

DC: That’s right!

DC: What is your fashion must-have for this season?
IA: A black skinny jeans of course…and being you…

Imane's various collections from his fashion shows!

DC: Dulce Camer
IA: Imane Ayissi

Wow, his designs are slinky, very feminine, elegant and looks luxurious! I think one thing that Imane does very well is that he understands the female body and he knows how to accentuate and make that body look heavenly and divine through his designs.
I hope you enjoyed this interview as I did conducting it. He is a very nice person and I am ever so glad he decided to give me that opportunity to interview him. To check out more on Imane, please visit his website on
You can also check him out on
Until next time, keep reading and keep checking Dulce Camer y'all!
Stay Sweet!


Anonymous said...

What a great attitude towards business! It is so encouraging to read Imane's story.
Thanks Dulce for having this blog which allows us read about hardworking, young Cameroonians.

Anonymous said...

cool article

Anonymous said...

Cynthia thanks for making my Saturday with this hot chocolate what a great way to start my day.

Anonymous said...

Lol!! Isabel! Yes he is a fine looking gentleman!

Dulce, this is a great article.

Keep up the great work!!

UO xx

Anonymous said...

Good job Cynthia
keep them coming!

Anonymous said...

This is a very inspiring story, and just reminds us that, if we work hard, we can acheive that which we desire in life.... not giving up, though tough times may come. Go Imane, and go DC! T'is great knowing and seeing that our bro's and sis' are kicking it in their part of the world; God bless ya

Anonymous said...

Interesting story....

Anonymous said...

fab article! is he gay??...not that it matters!
Mamfe oranges

Stylist said...

Great this is a very beautiful stylist blog. I enjoy reading it. Keep up the good work.