Imane Ayissi comes from a family of sportsmen and artists – his siblings are singers and dancers, his mother was Miss Cameroon in 1960 and his father a boxing champion. Born in Cameroon, Imane was a ballet dancer with the Ballet National du Cameroun and simultaneously modelled for the likes of Valentino Garavani, Dior, Givenchy, Yves Saint-Laurent and Pierre Cardin. However, he has also pursued a career as a fashion designer, starting with work for an atelier in Cameroon and then relocating to Paris where, since 2010, he has presented at Paris Haute Couture. He has the distinction of being the first sub-Saharan designer to be invited to join the official Haute Couture Calendar in Paris. His couture and prêt-à-porter collections combine African tradition with western influences, incorporating craftwork and traditional skills, and he is committed to ethical and sustainable production, using natural and, as far as possible, organic materials. Imane also promotes fashion training projects and the textile industry in Africa, particularly in Cameroon.
My Secret Tip is a store called Alara in Lagos, Nigeria. This is the temple of fashion for African design – they sell all the best African designers and promote the African art of design with an exceptional selection of pieces. It really is extraordinary. Created by fashion entrepreneur Reni Folawiyo, a prominent figure in Nigeria, this concept store extends over five floors. You can drink coffee here and have a gastronomic meal – all 100 per cent African. I’d recommend you check out designs from Duro Olowu, a Nigerian-born Brit who is now based in the USA, where he has Michelle Obama as a client; accessories by Kenyan artist Cyrus Kabiru; and bags by Zashadu. Alara may be a secret for many, but it really is a cultural meeting place for young Nigerians and a fantastic representation of Africa. The selection is flamboyant and full of colour, and I find it exceptional. We need these types of stores everywhere in the world, and we have this in Africa. I love this store!
Alara, 12a Akin Olugbade Street, Victoria Island 106104, Lagos, Nigeria; Imane Ayissi’s prêt-à-porter collection is available from Merchants on Long at 10-11 Burlington Arcade, 51 Piccadilly, London W1J 0QJ; merchantsonlong.com; burlingtonarcade.com; imane-ayissi.com